Loss of Canadian Heritage funding undermines Indigenous language revitalization program in Victoria

CHEK

A change in rules means the Victoria Native Friendship Centre has lost a major source of funding for the Urban Indigenous Language Hub.

Through the hub, VNFC offers lessons in immersive classes in seven languages — Nuučaan̓uɫ, Nihiyaw (Cree – Y dialect and TH dialect), Nedut’en Carrier, Dene, Dakota, and Anishinaabe.

“We were informed by one of our funders, the Canadian Heritage, that they were not going to be renewing our funding for our language program,” said Ron Rive, Executive Director of the VNFC.

Its primary funder, Canadian Heritage, announced in January that it would no longer be approving funding, it would instead come from another organization.

Last year, Canadian Heritage gave VNFC $266,500.

“The loss of this contract is in stark contrast to recent government statements and promises around reconciliation,” Ron Rice – Wush’q, VNFC executive director said in a news release.

“Urban Indigenous people have not been included or considered in language revitalization, despite being the majority of the Indigenous population in BC. 1/3rd of existing Indigenous Languages are found in BC. The disparity between on-reserve funding, and the funding that serves the majority of our Indigenous community here is immense. ”

VNFC is asking for the B.C. government, Heritage Canada and the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages to provide funding to continue this program, which has supported over 2,000 language learners since 2018.

Rice told CHEK News they are reaching out to their friends at First Peoples Cultural Council for advice, and that they are appealing to Canadian Heritage to see if their decision can be re-considered.

The VNFC says this program is one that would meet the Calls to Action for Indigenous languages in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

“Our Indigenous communities lose fluent speakers each year, and funding delays and changes actively undermine language revitalization efforts,” the news release says. “VNFC has in excess of 175 funding agreements, with less than 20% of those being multi-year.”

For now, Elders will volunteer their time without financial compensation until a funding solution is found.

VNFC is also seeking donations to continue its work promoting the well-being of urban Indigenous people.

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