The federal government has announced $8.4 million in funding for Manitoba’s urban and off-reserve Indigenous organizations, including more than $250,000 for the Bear Clan Patrol to further expand the organization’s food-hamper program.
Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal made the announcement outside Bear Clan Patrol’s Selkirk Avenue headquarters Tuesday morning on behalf of Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, alongside members of the Bear Clan board of directors and some of the province’s regional chiefs.
"Today I’m very pleased to announce… support for organizations and projects like the Bear Clan Patrol’s community food bank as part of the additional supports available to urban and off-reserve members through this fund," said Vandal, MP for Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.
"Through this important response program, Bear Clan Patrol will be able to provide the delivery of weekly food supply to vulnerable people here in Winnipeg's inner city."
According to Bear Clan board chair Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais, the funds will be used to expand the organization’s food-hamper program, which provides bread, fruit, diapers and other supplies to more than 1,500 Winnipeggers each week.
The extra funds — which total $251,850 — will be used to employ four part-time staff to co-ordinate hamper deliveries, alleviating the need for vulnerable community members to leave home to access food, and to provide an additional 400 hampers per week.
"I'm a mother, an Indigenous mother here in the North End, I know first-hand the struggles of the reality of living in this community sometimes," Robinson-Desjarlais said.
"I'm just so thankful to our board and our volunteers of Bear Clan Patrol, and thankful for the investment that has been given to our community so that we can continue to employ people, to deliver food hampers to our elders, our mothers, our children, the people who call the North End home who might need a little bit of help, and the hundreds of people who walk through these doors for food, to eat."
This funding comes in addition to a $228,000 federal contribution earlier in the year, totalling almost $500,000 from Ottawa for the organization.
"This is not about anything more than respecting our people that might not have enough and respecting the lives of human beings that live in this community. We are a community and it takes a huge effort of all the people that live here at every level to make sure that we all live a good life and... our children are fed and safe," Robinson-Desjarlais said.
Bear Clan’s slice of the funds is part of a long-standing federal commitment to provide $1.7 billion in specific support for Indigenous and northern communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with $90 million allocated specifically to urban and off-reserve members under the Indigenous Community Support Fund. The money is intended to support essential services for vulnerable people and to prevent and respond to potential COVID-19 outbreaks.
Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs’ Organization will also benefit from the federal funding package, Vandal announced. More than $775,000 of the total $8.4 million will be allocated to the group to be distributed among 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota First Nations across southern Manitoba.
Other recipients of the funding package will include the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre of Winnipeg, the Aboriginal Senior Resource Centre, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Secretariat, Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, Manitoba Inuit Association, MKO, and the North Point Douglas Women's Association.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.