Saturday, October 3, 2009

Aboriginal Healing Foundation; its days are numbered?

Aboriginal Healing Foundation; its days are numbered?

As a former Board member of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), I read with great interest the article entitled, “Chiefs, survivors want healing fund extended” published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, Oct. 2, 2009.

Do Chiefs and Survivors need more money or a change of attitude?

As a Survivor myself of 13 years of residential school, namely the Grollier Hall experience in Inuvik, NT, the money issue to individuals was somewhat addressed with the common experience compensation package which allotted 10,000 dollars for one’s first year of residential school and another 3,000 dollars for each subsequent year attended. You do the math. I say “somewhat addressed” because I am still appalled that the immigrant Canadian Maher Arar received 10,000,000 dollars for alleged abuses in a Syrian jail during a period of ten months. And he still has his language and his culture. Something most Survivors like me lost and will never have.

Has the money issue for the AHF been addressed? It received 350,000,000 dollars plus another 125,000,000 as additional money to carry on its mandate to allocate money to eligible recipients for eligible projects. While on the AHF Board, I argued and deliberated over the funding agreement on a number of issues. For example, I advocated the need for all members of the Board be Survivors as I felt passionate the AHF should be first and foremost for Survivors by Survivors.  To this day, the initial President of the AHF who is a non-Survivor is still at the helm and has somewhat assured himself to take the AHF to its end. Regarding his compensation, he stands to receive close to 2,000,000 dollars; should I be appalled again when the average Survivor through the common experience package received 18,000 dollars?

Should the AHF receive more funding or should Survivors/Communities have a change of attitude? It can be argued and hopefully through its final evaluation, money distributed to communities has had some value and Survivors along with the communities are well into their respective healing journeys. Another thing I advocated while on the AHF was the need to acknowledge the Survivors with a Life-time Achievement Award from the organization that operates and showcases the yearly Aboriginal Achievement Awards.  As Mr. Custer has said, “I think I’m going (to) heal for the rest of my life.”

Regarding a change of attitude? I remember reminding the AHF Board members of the story of the Akali Lake First Nation in BC. As some may know, the Band members in that community had quite an alcohol problem a number of years ago and was well documented in the film, “The Honour of All.” It was a moving story as it had an effect on others and me throughout the country. The interesting thing was their healing journey started with one woman having a change of attitude; an attitude to change her abuse of alcohol. In turn, her attitude affected the whole community. The change did not take any money.

Do we need more money? Perhaps, or just a change of attitude?

(Young 8 year old Angus Cockney pictured; already 3 years of Residential School with no knowledge of his language and culture.)