Some Iqalungmiut want money for youth facility



IQALUIT — Nunavut’s youth deserve a bigger piece of the pie when the territorial government divvies up its budget, Iqalungmiut told a panel of MLAs last week.
“Our population is youth,” said Don Lalonde, president of Iqaluit’s newly-formed John Howard Society.

Lalonde peppered Finance Minister Kelvin Ng with questions on how much of the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth’s budget goes to youth during a pre-budget consultation session held in Iqaluit last week.

The meeting was one of the last of a series of consultations held across Nunavut last month.

The CLEY Department has a budget of $6.2 million. Ng could not say exactly how much is allotted to youth, but he said “I don’t think that it’s much,” Ng said.

The John Howard Society is looking for funding to pay for a new youth drop-in centre. He said to date he has been unable to get a clear answer on what’s available. They recently opened a drop-in centre at Iqaluit’s Sailivik Centre, but Lalonde said more space is needed.

Meanwhile, he said youth in Iqaluit are left roaming the streets without supervision.

“We’ve got a lot of kids running around with nobody to guard them or supervise them. My concern is, when are we going to have a centre?” Lalonde asked.

Speaking to reporters after the public meeting, Ng said youth programming was not given a large chunk of the budget because historically that has been a federal responsibility.

“There’s never been any youth funding in the territorial budget. The federal government has always had a responsibility for youth,” he said.

At each of the five community consultations Ng had attended, youth programming figured prominently in discussions.

Ng could not guarantee that youth programming would figure more prominently in the 2000-2001 budget, but he said it would have to be considered.

Iqaluit town councillor Ben Ell also raised youth as an issue, and said young people who are no longer in school should not be barred from using the school gymnasium.

And Kathy Smith, chair of the Iqaluit District Education Authority said the funding formula for schools should be revisited. She said programs such as physical education and some arts programming should be made available to smaller schools.

Once the community consultations are complete, the government will draft a priorities document by year end, Ng said.

That draft will try to incorporate the common themes from the consultations, he said. The document will be made public for discussion, he said.

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