Squamish Nation is one of 12 First Nations communities in the Lower Mainland and southwestern British Columbia that will be able to set up or complete new well-being and poverty-reduction plans and projects, thanks to grants from the B.C. government.
The nations received grants through the First Nations Well Being Fund, which is administered by the First Nations Public Service Secretariat, in partnership with the First Nations Leadership Council.
The grants support First Nations and Tribal Councils in their efforts “to promote well-being, improve quality of life for community members on and off-reserve, and reduce poverty at the community or Nation level,” according to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
Squamish Nation will put a grant of $35,000 toward an Elders' centre engagement project. The project will focus on culturally sensitive mental-health wellness and engagement programs for Elders.
More than $2 million in grants has been provided to 62 First Nation communities throughout the province so far.
Cheryl Casimer, political executive of the First Nations Summit said the poverty reduction initiative was created to assist B.C. First Nations to increase well-being within their communities and membership.
“This welcome program is a modest step toward addressing the disproportionally high rates of poverty for First Nations citizens in B.C.,” she said in a release.
Numerous studies have shown that Indigenous people experience the highest levels of poverty, with a shocking 25 per cent of Indigenous people in Canada living in poverty, added Casimer.
“The program was very oversubscribed, which clearly shows there is a high demand for much-needed funding for these types of important community projects,” she said. “We hope that the success of this initiative will lead to greater poverty reduction funding opportunities for our communities in the future."
Some of the other First Nations to receive grants of $35,000 include Musqueam Nation, which will use the funds to deliver wellness workshops for youth and Elders, and train suicide-prevention staff, and Skwah First Nation, near Chilliwack, and Xaxli'p First Nation in Lillooet, which will both put the grants towards improving local food security by planning, building and maintaining community gardens.
"As we continue the work to build and maintain strong relationships based on recognition and implementation of the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, it's good to know that many of the plans and projects being funded through the First Nations Well Being Fund are designed to preserve and respect Indigenous cultures and promote community well-being," Murray Rankin, minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, said in a release.
The B.C. government provided funding as part of TogetherBC, the Province's poverty-reduction strategy. All B.C. First Nations were eligible to apply to the fund.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.