Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby wants the NWT to better support non-governmental organizations providing addictions, counselling and other services to residents who can’t otherwise get them.
In the Legislative Assembly on Monday, Nokleby said community wellness and youth workers at Yellowknife’s Tree of Peace Friendship Centre have not seen a salary increase for several years despite the increasing popularity of the centre’s programs, inflation, and rises in the cost of living.
“Personnel often go without raises so programming isn’t cut and, like all teachers everywhere, educators are often purchasing supplies for their classrooms out of pocket,” she said.
Nokleby gave the example of the alcohol educator program, which provides ongoing aftercare support, saying the program has had the same funding for years. Given the push for rehabilitation services in the North, she said that funding needs to be reassessed.
“Currently, the program is constantly being monitored to not go over budget, potentially leading to diminished services,” she said. “With appropriate funding and a needs assessment, this service could be expanded to youths.”
Nokleby said the Tree of Peace has a “deep respect for Indigenous peoples’ cultural distinctiveness and the trauma created by the legacy of residential schools.”
That means people may feel more comfortable accessing programs there, she said, rather than those offered by the territorial government that “may evoke feelings of colonialism and institutionalized racism.”
Nokleby questioned what the NWT government was doing to ensure non-governmental organizations – or NGOs – can keep supporting communities.
Premier Caroline Cochrane said the territorial budget proposes extra funding for the Status of Women Council and Native Women’s Association. She added her government had increased the NGO stabilization fund from $350,000 to $700,000.
Cochrane said she could not direct a department to increase funding, but committed to creating a fair and equitable model for funding NGOs.
“Larger NGOs that have either the capacity, or are smart enough to get MLAs on board, are actually getting increases, and that’s not fair,” she said.
Nokleby added that NGOs often have to reapply for project funding that can come with lots of restrictions, saying that speaks to a lack of core funding.
Cochrane said she had committed to meeting with the NWT and Nunavut Friendship Society to discuss how to support them. She said she is considering seconding an employee to look at building capacity so NGOs can be financially sustainable.
Nokleby suggested such an employee’s focus should be on getting more federal funding, so organizations don’t have to jump through hoops.