Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples expands reach

Indigenous people told the Government of Canada that its programing needed a broader scope to better serve those in urban settings. Their push for change is making possible innovative programs such as the British Columbia-based Sasamans Society's youth navigators.

The navigator program received project funding for 2017-2018 through the Government of Canada's Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (UPIP). The society's youth navigators helped young people in care or on probation find their way through systems and builds one-on-one mentoring relationships.

UPIP is a new program designed to respond to Indigenous people's feedback in round table discussions and surveys about the 2014 Urban Aboriginal Strategy, which focused strongly on participation in the economy. The feedback told the government it needed to support more diverse programming. They also wanted funding to be specifically targeted to the distinct needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Sasamans Society's executive director Lori Bull says the money helped to create one of her organization's Indigenous youth navigator programs in the Port Hardy area of Vancouver Island.

The navigators helped youth who are in care or on probation find a path through the systems and access other supports. Sasamans, says Bull, focuses on building relationships with youth. "If you are sitting across a desk from a youth, what are the chances they are going to connect with you? We're going to take them for coffee or lunch if they are hungry," says Bull.

The navigator who worked in Port Hardy in 2018 was Indigenous himself and had a gift for connecting with youth through outdoor and athletic activities, she says. "We helped set up a gym membership at the local gym for him to attend with the youth when they wanted to go, and he would spend time with them showing them how to use the equipment," says Bull. This contributed to health and wellness in a community that struggles with the impacts of colonialism.

He attended meetings with the youth and their probation officers and social workers, as well as accompanied them to court appearances. He also helped the youth enroll in adult education programs and with more personal matters such as planning for family visits in their home territories.

To find out more, visit UPIP.

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