Indian and Métis Friendship Centre's provincial membership — and funding — terminated

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Indian and Métis Friendship Centre's provincial membership — and funding — terminated

Winnipeg's Indian and Métis Friendship Centre has been kicked out of the Manitoba association that provides its funding.

At its quarterly meeting Sunday, the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres voted 9-1 to terminate the Winnipeg friendship centre's membership, MAC president Muriel Parker said.

Parker said the Manitoba association has 11 members and Winnipeg's friendship centre was not present to cast a vote to stay involved. The Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres had suspended its funding in a letter Jan. 31 pending the vote. 

The decision shocked Donna M'Lot, president of the Winnipeg friendship centre, who said she was told by the two representatives sent to the quarterly meeting Saturday that an agreement had been reached to stay in the Manitoba association.

The plan was for the friendship centre to go into third-party receivership, she said.

"Everything that we talked about yesterday at the MAC meeting in Dauphin, everything seems to be the opposite of what we decided," M'Lot said. "So I'm really confused. I'm not even sure if I'm still president of the board!"

She was also left reeling after board members resigned after a meeting Sunday.

Funding cut for 1 year

The centre's membership is terminated for one year, meaning it won't receive an estimated $369,740 in provincial funding allocated by the Manitoba association for 2016-17. 

The centre also gets some financial support through fundraising.

"But they will always be welcome back. Once they get a fully functioning board and an operating staff and they get themselves back on track, we will again accept them back. But we will not accept them back within the first year," Parker said.

Parker said the Winnipeg Indian and Métis Friendship Centre has had five board members when it is supposed to have nine. They run about four programs concurrently, compared to other association member organizations that run 30 or more programs.

M'Lot said the friendship centre provides a few programs, including free laundry services, a healthy baby program, harvest lunchtime and a youth program. More funding would be required to offer more programming, she said.

Parker said the friendship centre can ask for help and the provincial association will do what it can to assist them.

"They have to bring the centre back up to the standards that the rest of the friendship centres have to hold themselves at. They're simple things, like making sure your reports are on time and fully completed, making sure your applications are in," Parker said.

She said she hopes the friendship centre will be able to get its funding back within one year.

"I'm very optimistic.… We may have to put some other things in place, some other guidance in place to help them through the next few years," Parker said.

"It's the oldest centre in Canada," she said. "We want them to be our leading centre."

Board members resigned Sunday

Close to 100 people attended an emergency membership meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss ways to get the centre back on track. Several longstanding members took the opportunity to express their frustrations and concerns when it comes to the future of the centre.

Norman Meade was one of two board members in attendance Sunday. That's when he announced he was resigning.

"As far as I know, we all resigned. I got notification that we have resigned as a board. I got that information in writing by text that the board has resigned," Meade said.

Meade said he didn't resign previously because he wanted to try to help fix the problems.

"I'm not running away from it. I could have resigned before and didn't, because of the place where we are at," he said.

"It's not right, it doesn't seem right for me to be asking other board members to resign if I'm not willing myself. I said it here today and I stand by my decision to resign."

Meade said he hopes a new board can have "a fresh relationship" with the Manitoba association. 

But M'Lot said she's not sure if the meeting Sunday was in accordance with the friendship centre's constitution.

"I really wasn't aware," M'Lot said about the meeting. "I was told the friendship centre was having a rally today. I wasn't told they were having a membership meeting. So I'm a little confused."

M'Lot said a membership meeting requires a motion be brought to the president and board and 21 days notice.

"It's not that we don't want to call the membership meeting, but if that's what you want, if the members want that, give us that information," M'Lot said.

Other board members could not be reached to confirm whether they had all resigned. 

Stay open for the kids: staffer

Deven Dewar, the centre's youth program co-ordinator, said he's seen firsthand the issues that have been plaguing board members for months. When problems are caused by the board, Dewar said, the staff are left to pick up the pieces.

"With everything that's been going on, funds are running low, and we don't know how long we will keep our doors open," Dewar said. "Vehicles can't be fuelled or insured. That hurts the kids a lot. We can't go swimming or have outings."

Dewar said he was relieved to hear that the entire board has resigned. He feels if the board really cares about the centre, they will allow them to move on.

"It's a right move on their part. We need to heal and grow as a centre again. Start over and start fresh again," Dewar said. "I don't believe them. They are a bunch of double-talkers. They said a lot of things they were going to do and they didn't."