An uncommon visit from a federal government minister yielded promising news for Seabird Island and neighbouring First Nations communities.
Federal Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino announced $3.1 million in funding for five years for Seabird Island to run an Indigenous youth program in an effort to prevent crime, violence and gang involvement.
The Seabird Island Outdoor After School Indigenous Youth Development Program “Contented Spirit – Sthalethi sewelh” will give young Seabird Island and area First Nations community members an opportunity to participate in cultural workshops, land-based teachings and activities as well as sports.
“We are pleased that the National Crime Prevention Strategy funds will support the youth at Seabird Island and surrounding communities so that we may lower the over-representation of our people in the Canadian judicial system,” said Seabird Island Band Chief Jim Harris in a written statement. “Reconnection to the land is reconnecting to our ancestors and our culture, it’s through this connection that we continue to heal, grow and prosper for generations to come.”
Mendicino estimated the program would help more than 200 young people over the course of five years.
“I’m very confident that this is a good investment in this community at Seabird Island,” he said. “We’re here to be a partner.”
Seabird Island Band Coun. Alexis Grace expressed her gratitude to federal and provincial partners as well as her hopes for this program to be a catalyst for positive change.
“This provides an opportunity to see a brighter day and to shift the landscape,” Grace said. “I am very, very grateful. I hold my hands up and I look forward to the next steps where we walk together in partnership and cooperation as we look at what transformative change there could be as driven by the community and driven by stories seven generations before us, and what is possible and what we can achieve with the seven generations that follow us here today.”
Mendicino said working directly with individual First Nations communities to create programs according to their cultural needs is key in the success of programs like Contented Spirit.
“I think after many, many years of missed opportunities, we’re recognizing that the expertise is right here,” he added. “When you listen to the community and respect the rights of First Nations, then you will see a reduction in the over-representation in our correctional facilities, and that is consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.”
In addition to the culturally appropriate activities for youth, Seabird Island will also provide social supports and counseling services.
The funding comes through the National Crime Prevention Strategy’s Crime Prevention Action Fund. There were 266 applications submitted for funding this past year. During the 2022-23 fiscal year, the CPAF will make $12 million available to successful applicants across the country.