Groups slam province for funding non-Indigenous-led organization working to keep youth out of justice system

A coalition of Indigenous-led organizations says it is shocked to learn that the Manitoba government has awarded $2.25 million through a social impact bond to a non-Indigenous-led organization to help keep Indigenous youth out of the justice system, while the province says the program itself is guided by an Indigenous team.

On Monday, the province announced a partnership with the social services organization Marymound to work with at least 45 Indigenous youth — 15 in Thompson and 30 in Winnipeg — over the next three years to help reduce recidivism rates.

The Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle, which is made up of 32 organizations that work to support the city’s Indigenous population, criticized the provincial government on Friday for not partnering with or including Indigenous-led nonprofits in the consultation process.

“We were shocked, concerned and saddened that another government and these foundations would hand over the administration of an Indigenous-focused program to a faith-based organization,” said Dodie Jordaan, Executive Director of Ka Ni Kanichihk and member of the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle. , said in a statement.

“This is a missed opportunity to renew efforts to reverse the lasting effects of residential schools.

In a statement, the province said Marymound’s program will be culturally informed and “guided and delivered by an Indigenous team.”

Marymound, founded more than a century ago by the Catholic Good Shepherd Sisters, was originally conceived as a way to keep young women and girls out of the justice system, the organization’s website says. .

Girls found delinquent by the courts could be sentenced to Marymound, and parents and social agencies could also send girls to reformatory school, wrote historian Tanya Woloschuk for the Manitoba Historical Society.

The last nuns left the organization in 2014.

Marymound offers crisis supports, youth sexual addiction and abuse treatment programs, group housing, foster care, clinical supports and cultural health services for youth and families in risk, among other services.

The province’s social impact bond will include a comprehensive approach that uses input from family, friends, ceremonies and other activities to help decide which supports are most appropriate for each young person in the program, said Marymound.

Marymound Elder-in-Residence Louise Lavallee named the program Zaagiwe Oshinawe Inaakonigewin, which translates to “loving (the) youth (in) justice” in Anishinaabemowin. During Monday’s announcement, she suggested the program will incorporate indigenous knowledge to tackle the root causes of crime.

The province says the program incorporates recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, and commitments in the Modernizing Manitoba’s Criminal Justice.

Through Indigenous leadership, “an overarching model has been modified into an Indigenous Framework, identifying this program as a ‘two-eyes-seeing’ approach grounded in Indigenous research and knowledge,” the province said.

Kendell Joiner, co-chair of the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle and executive director of the Native Clan Organization, says there are many Indigenous-led nonprofit groups in the province who could have been considered for this opportunity. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Kendell Joiner, executive director of the Native Clan Organization, said he had no criticism of Marymound’s work, but he suggested the province partnering with an organization with ties to the Catholic Church is “a giant misstep”.

“If this is an appropriate way to fund programs with non-Indigenous organizations… [by] tackling, say, some sort of consultation at a smaller level, without necessarily having the non-profit community doing this work already involved, it could just be… a general precedent to be set with funding, and a kind of a future for Aboriginal non-profits and charities,” Joiner said.

Joiner, who is also co-chair of the Indigenous Executive Council of Winnipeg, said he was hurt and suggested that Indigenous-led groups had not been informed of a government proposal. He said there are a number of appropriate Indigenous non-profit organizations working in restorative justice and youth spaces that have not been consulted.

He also raised concerns about how social impact bonds are structured and how that could present barriers to Indigenous nonprofits’ competitiveness for future opportunities.

The province introduced Social Impact Bonds in Manitoba in 2015. In 2019, Premier Heather Heather Stefanson, then Minister of Families, defended the use of Social Impact Bonds, saying they “focus on results “.

The bonds aim to bring together government, nonprofit organizations, the private sector and other groups to fund results-based social programs. Private investors foot the bill initially and are reimbursed if project and cost-saving goals are met, the province said.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson says she hopes the new program for Indigenous youth involved in the justice system will help curb gang activity. (Province of Manitoba)

The Marymound program is supported by nine private sector financial investors.

“As Indigenous organizations…there is no way we can find the investments in advance to fund a program for three years, let alone operate this program when we are already so underfunded initially,” Joiner said.

Members of the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle say they have reached out to the province and others involved. They hope to meet to discuss some of their concerns about the process.

A spokesperson for Marymound said its chief executive was unavailable for comment.

A spokesperson for the premier said two expressions of interest had been issued ahead of time, with “the province paying particular attention to Indigenous consultation and representation when selecting an organization.”

The process was “thorough…transparent and inclusive,” the premier’s office said, “rooted in an Indigenous worldview and teachings, aimed at providing holistic and healing supports to all Indigenous youth involved in the justice system”.