It’s been nearly a year since Kamloops was tapped to host a pilot program aimed at improving the lives of off-reserve aboriginals.
Since then, hundreds of Kamloops urban aboriginals have weighed in during elaborate consultations, revealing that they feel disregarded.
“Community engagement showed that community members feel that their voices go unheard,” stated a year-end report released this week by the province’s Off-Reserve Aboriginal Action Plan co-ordinators.
Christopher Phillips, executive director of the Interior Friendship Centre, which is leading the study in Kamloops, said urban aboriginals feel left out “in the mist.”
Urban aboriginals, like their on-reserve counterparts, represent the highest birth rate in the country, he said.
They also face the same obstacles such as residential school trauma, high unemployment, poverty and disproportionate imprisonment.
Nonetheless, the past year’s surveys and interviews were among the first times in Kamloops that they had the opportunity to voice views and suggestions.
The study revealed seven key sectors for future focus — health, education, employment and training, housing, culture, justice and children and families.
“Aboriginal youth in particular raised the need for more supports and services including opportunities to learn about employable skills and about their own culture,” states the report.
Despite the existence of support agencies, social improvements lag because fierce competition for funding creates distrust and a culture of “sector silos” rather than collaboration.
The mere act of consulting the groups, however, has helped.
“Engaging partner agencies in meaningful conversation and initiating steps towards collaboration have shifted the way in which some of the organizations in Kamloops are viewing each other,” states the report.
Now that priorities have been identified, co-ordinators will work through an action plan, which will be presented to the community in draft form for feedback.
The federal government also intends to collaborate on the plan.
In the long term, states the report, they intend to create an administrative body and advisory council to take part in “social innovation.”