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Terry Mercer

The Hon. Terry M. Mercer, D.C.L, B.A., C.F.R.E. Appointed to the Senate by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien in November 2003, Senator Terry M. Mercer represents the province of Nova Scotia and the Senatorial Division of Northend Halifax.

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Support for Wapikoni Mobile

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Statement made on 29 September 2011 by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette:

Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and it will be easy for her to answer since surely she will agree with me.

A group of Aboriginal people and parliamentarians held a press conference this morning in support of Wapikoni Mobile. Wapikoni is an Aboriginal word meaning "flower" and mobile refers to the fact that the project involves a trailer that travels across Quebec. The trailer is a mobile audiovisual and music training and production studio that has been travelling to First Nations communities throughout Quebec for seven years. In fact, there are three trailers. The project now also includes exchanges with other countries.

Wapikoni Mobile is a modern training initiative that Aboriginal people themselves say has literally saved lives in some cases. The project gives First Nations people a voice, one that is not heard often enough. The project awakens artistic talent, creates local jobs and provides contract opportunities — sometimes the only contract work available in the community all year. It is a true training ground where a new generation of Aboriginal youth are gradually being discovered. Take, for example, Quebec singer Samian who was discovered as a direct result of this project and then went on to create other employment himself.

In addition to helping young people to develop skills in the arts and multimedia production, Wapikoni Mobile facilitates exchanges and communication among youth and helps them to be more open to the world. It gives them the opportunity to learn about themselves, experience a change from their usual way of life and make a name for themselves in their community and in the world. This is the background for my question.

It will not have escaped the leader's notice that First Nations communities are among the most vulnerable in our society. Yet, her government recently decided to cut Wapikoni Mobile's funding in order to save $490,000 — the leader can surely help the Prime Minister find this money — 50 per cent of the organization's total budget. The leader's government has decided to kill this original and extremely useful initiative because, now that 50 per cent of its budget has been cut, the project cannot continue.

Why did the leader's government decide to cut this unique project — that provided training to Quebec's Aboriginal youth in their communities, on their reserves — thus taking away what little hope they had left?

Please click here to read the full text of the Senator's question

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