QIA wants to kick-start Iqaluit youth centre

The Qikiqtaani Inuit Assocation’s youth department is tapping into federal money to pay for youth co-ordinators and a possible youth centre building in Iqaluit.



IQALUIT — A combination of community support and federal cash may soon bring Iqaluit’s dream of a youth centre to fruition.

Youth in Baffin communities — including Iqaluit — are preparing to tap into a pot of federal cash for youth programming.

In 1998 the federal Canadian Heritage Department launched the urban multipurpose aboriginal youth centre initiative.

The program was developed to assist and support aboriginal youth living in urban centres. So far, money has been used for everything from youth activities to training youth co-ordinators.

This year, Iqaluit wants to use its share of the cash to kick start the drive to open a youth centre, said Christa Henderson, youth co-ordinator for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

“We’re thinking of hiring a youth co-ordinator with that money,” Henderson said.

“It’s in demand. There’s not really a place for them to go and converse and hang out,” Henderson said. QIA hopes the opening of a new youth centre will spark the development of a youth committee in Iqaluit. The centre would be open to all youth, Henderson said.

The youth co-ordinator would start planning programmings for a centre and help lobby for funding, Henderson said. Henderson is hopeful the co-ordinator will have a new facility to run within the next few months.

“I’d like them to start thinking about programming. We hope they find a building within a few months,” Henderson said.

QIA distributes money to six Baffin communities on behalf of the federal government. Last year communities with more than 1,000 people received $13,000 each. This year they will each receive $32,000 each, Henderson said. It is expected similar levels of funding will continue for the next two years.

While the money will pay for a co-ordinator, the person hired, along with QIA’s youth department will have to gather enough contributions from the community and the territorial government to find a site for a centre.

“Right now it’s really hard to find a building in Iqaluit,” Henderson said. QIA’s youth department is now drafting proposals to other government programs for funding.

Henderson is hopeful a site can be identified within the next few months. It is also expected QIA will have to attract support from local organizations and businesses.

Henderson is now working on a budget for the possible centre. If they can find a building that doesn’t require extensive renovation, Henderson hopes a centre will open by the end of March.

In total the federal government will plow $100 million into aboriginal communities with populations of 1,000 people or more over four years.

For 1999-2000 $1.1 million is guaranteed for Inuit youth living in Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador, the Inuvialuit and southern communities. Iqaluit used last year’s money to hire two youth co-ordinator trainees, Henderson said.

Nunavut’s newly-formed John Howard Society also wants a new centre to be opened. The society uses the Sailivik Centre as its current drop-in centre.

The society believes a new centre is needed and Don Lalonde, the president of the John Howard Society, said if another organization wants to take the lead the society would likely support them.

“We’d love to support anyone who’s starting anything like that.,” Lalonde said.

“We’re not going to take any offence at someone taking the lead,” he said.

Lalonde estimates a building large enough to accommodate 300 to 400 youth is needed in Iqaluit.

Two years ago, the opening of a youth centre seemed imminent until the proposed location fell through, said Iqaluit West MLA Ed Picco.

“There’s lots of goodwill there, the thing is to find that building,” Picco said.

Picco said options, such as building a new facility, must be considered. He said the Nunavut government may consider funding a building.

If a site for a youth drop-in centre can’t be found, Henderson said QIA will have to consider other options such as working with groups like the John Howard Society.

Henderson said QIA wants to partner with other groups to increase the likelihood of success.

“It takes the whole community to get the whole thing going. It’s going to be a struggle but its not that difficult,” Henderson said.

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