Young adults making use of Prince Rupert’s Planet Youth center will be left out in the cold as of Friday, June 29, after the Federal Government decided to cut off funding for all Planet Youth programs across the country.
Planet Youth was put in place to assist young people with a variety of things, such as getting them more involved in the community and helping them to find employment. Planet Youth also gave young adults productive and healthy activities to partake in, such as culture camps, plant medicine workshops, music sessions, hiking, and more. The group also fund raised annually to take part in larger provincial-wide events such as the Gathering Strength Canoe Journey and Gathering Our Voices Aboriginal Youth Conference.
The Department of Canadian Heritage was funding Prince Rupert’s center, as well as 25 other centers of the same nature in British Columbia. Notice of the funding cut came on June 12, with the federal Conservatives stopping funding to the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth program, a $22-million initiative that supports off-reserve Aboriginal youth in the 10-24 year old bracket, which funded Planet Youth.
“The ages [of people utilizing Planet Youth] in Prince Rupert is 19 to 24, but across Canada the age range is 14 to 24. In most communities it’s the only youth program they have,” said Lucy Heffernan, who works at the Friendship House’s Youth Hub.
“There’s a service gap. Once you turn 18, you’re out of the system and out on your own.”
22-year old Eli Wesley said he was upset when he found out Planet Youth would be closing down.
“I don’t see why they’re cutting it. The government says that they’re supporting youth…But then they do this to us. What are Aboriginal youth suppose to do now?” questioned Wesley, who has been part of the Friendship House’s youth programs since he was nine years old.
“Since they’ve closed us up we’re going to be hanging out by the fountain in front of City Hall, or we’ll go out drinking because we have nothing else to do.”
Wesley has been utilizing Planet Youth since he was 19, and like many other young adults using the program, it helped him find employment.
Christa Barette, who is the Recreation and Culture worker at Planet Youth, also expressed disappointment that the center would be shut down, stating that young adults wanting to take leadership in the community no longer have a platform to do so.
“We just recently started a youth council of 11 dedicated 19 to 24-year old youths, who were ready, willing and able to take leadership in Prince Rupert with community service and projects,” stated Barette.
“This was a unifying force for the youth, to give them an opportunity to make change in their community, and now that’s gone and there’s nothing in its place.”
Although there is little time left to act against the government’s wishes, Planet Youth and other centers in British Columbia are all working together to collect as many signatures they can for a petition.
Anyone wishing to sign the petition is encouraged to visit the Friendship House, where they can do so.
Planet Youth also asks anyone who does not want to see the program close to contact government officials at:
The Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street