Juliana Cummins, Edmonton Journal, April 16, 2012
An Edmonton organization that promotes racial harmony and education is facing a massive budget cut after Citizenship and Immigration Canada notified the group they will no longer receive funding from the federal department.
“We’re still here. We’re not going away. We’ll just have far less capacity,” said Charlene Hay, executive director of the Centre for Race and Culture.
Last week, Hay was informed by the organization’s contact at Citizenship and Immigration Canada that their funding would be cut. The Edmonton-based centre is dedicated to programming, research and education that addresses racism and discrimination.
The money from Citizenship and Immigration made up about half the total funding the centre receives in any given year. For the past few years, the centre received roughly $500,000 annually from the federal department, Hay said.
“It was something that we expected would be renewed again,” Hay said.
At least in the short-term, Hay said she will have to look at eliminating some programs and cut about half of the centre’s 14 staff positions.
The centre has decided to eliminate its Peace Ambassadors program, in which volunteers learn about issues of race and discrimination, then give educational presentations to schools and other groups. The Keshotu Leadership Academy, a leadership and performance arts program aimed at African-Canadian youth, is also on the chopping block.
“They were really needed and wanted by the community,” Hay said of the now-defunct programs.
Citizenship and Immigration will not pay for any of the group’s costs accrued after March 31 until a new funding proposal from the centre is approved, said spokesman Jack Branswell in an email. A recent proposal submitted by the Centre for Race and Culture “lacked sufficient detail to prepare a new agreement,” Branswell wrote.
“Given continuing competition for limited funds, CIC seeks to ensure that requests for funding are strong, provide good value for money and address the needs of newcomers,” Branswell wrote.
Shana Stafiej, 25, was a volunteer with the Peace Ambassadors program for about two years. She joined soon after she started a masters of special education degree at the University of Alberta. Stafiej said she has experienced discrimination as a Muslim, and she was happy to find a volunteer program that gave her an opportunity to educate others about issues of racism and stereotyping.
“For both schools and students — they are going to lose this indispensable resource,” Stafiej said.
Stafiej and the other Peace Ambassadors were told of the elimination of the program at a recent meeting. With the end of the program, Stafiej said it’s unfortunate that some of the younger volunteers only had a short experience as an ambassador.
“It’s frustrating that they were not able to get to the point where I was,” Stafiej said.