Madam Speaker, niigaaniin, which means “to go forward”, is a culturally appropriate, community-based social assistance program that is making a big difference for the seven communities in the North Shore Tribal Council.
Niigaaniin's successes are many, such as the delivery of adult education in all seven communities. Previously there was no funding for this type of important work. The staff view their role as that of a community office and not a welfare office, turning stigma around and focusing on finding long-term solutions with the ability to deliver short-term help. Niigaaniin is part of a first nations cost of administration and employment supports pilot project.
First nations in Kenora and London are also implementing similar projects that are financed by Ontario Works. Ontario is meant to be reimbursed for these costs at a minimum of 50% from the federal government, as part of the 1965 Indian Welfare Agreement. Sadly, this program's funding is only guaranteed until the end of March 2010. This program might exist for less than four years if funding is not secured.
New Democrats join first nations communities in calling for secure funding agreements that would allow success stories like Niigaaniin to continue forging community-based solutions, working with and for the people by offering a hand up, not a hand out.