Wachiay aboriginal youth program might continue

A teen program at the Wachiay Friendship Centre that had been in danger of shutting down due to a freeze in aboriginal youth funding might carry on as normal now that cutbacks to a federal program appear not to be happening.

Funding for the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program (CCAY) will be made available for projects eligible under the program's new terms and conditions, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan, MP for Vancouver Island North, announced Monday.

Funds had been temporarily frozen to enable a review of the terms and conditions.

The federal Conservatives had frozen $3 million in funding to CCAY, a $22-million initiative that supports off-reserve aboriginal youth in the 10 to 24 age bracket. Wachiay was in danger of losing $75,000 that supports the Ravenback program, which offers culture and recreation activities for 13- to 19-year-olds, as well as staff mentoring towards healthy lifestyles. Besides program activities, the money covers wages of a co-ordinator and an assistant.

Program director Roger Kishi said Wachiay is "cautiously optimistic" it can reinstate the program, which serves about 150 youth.

"We don't know what the revised terms and conditions of the program are yet, and whether or not there will be another application process or if there's going to be a transition process," he said.

Notice of the cuts came June 12 from Duncan's office, though the Treasury Board had decided to freeze the funds.

"We would hope we'd be able to reinstate the program as soon as possible," said Kishi, noting Duncan does not mention a dollar amount. "We need to find out what the fine print says."

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