Canada’s Northwest Territories gives $1.75M to 52 anti-poverty initiatives

A file photo of the NWT city of Yellowknife. According to Minister of Health and Social Services Julie Green in a statement, the territorial government increased the fund “to help eligible organizations and Indigenous governments provide innovative community driven solutions in their poverty reduction initiatives.” (Mario de Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The funding supports 2SLGBTQ youth and food security programs, among others

The Northwest Territories government has expanded their annual $1 million Anti-Poverty Fund this year, awarding $1.75 million to 52 community, Indigenous and non-profit organizations with grants for their anti-poverty programs.

The fund was launched in 2014 as part of the Northwest Territories government’s action plan to reduce poverty in the territory.

According to Minister of Health and Social Services Julie Green in a statement, the territorial government increased the fund “to help eligible organizations and Indigenous governments provide innovative community driven solutions in their poverty reduction initiatives.”

It also allowed them to provide funding to 24 more organizations than they did last year.

Food First Foundation, a charity that supports food and nutrition education programs in the North, has received consistent funding from the Anti-Poverty Fund for several years.

This year, the foundation was given $60,000.

“We’re lucky to receive anti-poverty funding pretty consistently,” said Tess Ondrack, Food First Foundation’s coordinator. “Getting this large of an amount will really help this year for the schools.”

She says the funding goes directly to supporting breakfast, lunch and snack programs, as well as filling the gaps in larger sources of funding for schools.

Supporting 2SLGBTQ youth

The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife is another one of the 52 organizations who received funding from the N.W.T. government’s anti-poverty fund this year. It’s also the first 2SLGBTQ organization that has been awarded, according to its executive director.

The coalition received $25,000 this year — $5,000 more than they asked for — for their free sleep-away youth arts camp, Qmunity Camp.

“We’re so excited to be able to receive that much money,” said Chelsea Thacker, executive director of the Rainbow Coalition. “It just kind of showed that the committee had faith in our project and it gave us extra funds to be able to just do so much more at the camp.”

According to the Homeless Hub, Canadian 2SLGBTQ youth are over represented in poverty statistics, with 25 to 40 per cent of homeless youth identifying as 2SLGBTQ.

“We know that youth who grew up in impoverished situations don’t have access to the experience of often going to camp and having those costs covered, as well as being able to build those valuable life skills and interpersonal skills relating to other youth who are like them,” said Thacker.

Qmunity Camp’s co-director, Lindsay Debassige, said the camp is a safe space for 2SLGBTQ youth — many of whom have faced homelessness due to “homophobia, transphobia and this oppressive system and society that we live in.”

“Our part in doing this is to validate and hopefully give a space where folks can … build that confidence in themselves and meet other folks to know that your identity is real and valid,” said Debassige.

As the territory recovers from the pandemic, Thacker said 2SLGBTQ youth have been suffering exponentially — especially with the loss of connection and sense of community.

“We know that the youth need this space because there aren’t any safe spaces for them except this space.”

With Qmunity Camp, the pair hopes to provide support for 2SLGBTQ youth and assist with mental health and food security. This year, the anti-poverty fund will allow them to provide traditional food at the camp.

Some other new organizations that received funding this year include MakeWay Charitable Society/Alternative North, NWT Seniors Society, NWT Literacy Council, Yellowknife Farmer’s Market and more.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Food insecurity a public health crisis that needs action, says Canadian Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s farming sector in crisis: report, Yle News

Norway: Alarm bells ringing for Atlantic salmon in northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: 2018 drought took toll on Swedish farmers’ mental and fiscal health, research says, Radio Sweden

United States: This Alaskan spice shop brings new flavors to Indigenous dishes, Alaska Public Media

Karina Zapata, CBC News

Karina is a 2021 Joan Donaldson Scholar, currently working with the CBC North - Yellowknife newsroom.

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