Winnipeg City Council approves $3.4M funding for Christian drop-in centre

The Winnipeg chapter of “Youth for Christ” is seeking public funding to develop a state-of-the-art “Centre for Youth Excellence” in downtown Winnipeg.  The centre would provide a range of recreational and counselling services to youth in the area. Youth For Christ (YFC) is an international Christian youth ministry; a more detailed statement about their goals and strategies can be found on their website.

There’s been no shortage of strong language regarding the YFC proposal. NDP MP Pat Martin drove the debate by re-stating Canada’s place as a “secular society”. He said that “Faith-based organizations are welcome to proselytize” but that they shouldn’t “expect the taxpayers to subsidize.” Martin was criticized for his statements but raises a valid point: should the state fund a project like this?

YFC makes no bones about their message.  They put it out there, without forcing it on anyone, taking the position that those who have ears to hear the message will do just that.  The YFC Canada website states that “YFC will boldly move into areas where we do not now exist both geographically and culturally. The aboriginal youth community is a prime area for development.”

It’s statements like this that have other providers of youth services in the area concerned:

We are, however, very concerned with organizations like Youth for Christ because they have very explicit objectives to “Christianize” youth through their missions in the inner city. These objectives are clearly stated on their website.

The problem becomes further complicated when you consider that others providing service to the same group of young people have historically been strapped for funding.

Councillor Jenny Gerbasi raised concerns about gender equity and the implications for funding a drop-in centre run by the group during today’s debate.

Mayor Sam Katz took the position that the facility filled a much needed void in programming for the area.

In the end, the proposal was passed by a 10-4 vote by City Council this afternoon, with the city committing $3.4M, a move which opened the group to the possibility to recieve an additional $3.2M in federal funding.

5 Comments on "Winnipeg City Council approves $3.4M funding for Christian drop-in centre"

  1. Jim Weiten | 25/02/2010 at 5:09 pm |

    I cannot understand the big debate over this non issue. Here is a Christian organization willing to invest a lot of money to better the lives of inner city youths. Like dah..this is a no brainer..no one else has stepped forward with a plan and willing to put money into projects for this purpose..what is wrong with learning the ten commandments (treat others as you would have them treat you) basically…wow maybe the levels of gang involvement and crimes might actually start dropping. The worldly approach has clearly not worked..just look around you..the city is crumbling with violent crimes of all sorts, so obviously the athesistic approach has NOT worked very well..the inner city has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from this project… God bless those YFC people, and God bless us all!

  2. Tom Dobson, Robson Hall Law School | 25/02/2010 at 7:19 pm |

    By way of an update:
    Readers may have noticed that the precise dollar value of the commitment has varied depending on what news-source one happens to be reading. On her website Coun. Gerbasi today noted that:

    Council has now approved the project which will commit $225,000 per year for the next 15 years from the city’s operating budget as well as gifts of two parcels of land making for a total of 4.2 million dollars from the city. Federal dollars of $3,000,000 are also involved.

    While YFC has been around for many years and is a valid part of the fabric of our community the question remains as whether such a large amount of public tax dollars should go there. In the past YFC has largely paid it’s own way.

  3. Anonymous | 27/02/2010 at 2:57 pm |

    I do think that this is a big deal. Government services (and if the government is paying millions of dollars to make this service available, I think it is arguable this is well on its way to being a government service) should not promote any specific religion, and definitely should not be tied to prosthelytizing. I personally would not be comfortable having my child attend basketball camp at a youth centre that specifically tries to bring kids into the evangelical faith. I would feel the same way about a basketball camp that was linked to converting my child to Islam or Judaism. And if the government provides such major funding grants to these sorts of religious endeavours, then, because of my personal beliefs, I suddenly have less access to these public services. That, in my opinion, is unacceptable. Our government services should be for all of us.

  4. Bill Slade | 04/10/2011 at 10:13 am |

    People should never feel uncomfortable about such projects or missionary endeavours, in Canada or around the world. Statistically, Christians make up the largest part of humanitarian worker force &, per capita, the largest contributors to humanitarian work around the globe. Why? Because, it is central to our being, belief and calling, but if a recipient learns about Christianity but chooses not to commit their lives to God, that is their choice, which we respect. On the other hand, such a centre provides an invaluable resource for kids in distress, where society has failed, them, that promotes moral living & where support can be obtained. Can this be wrong?

  5. fostance | 25/06/2012 at 1:55 am |

    Its good to have youth participating in our area or nation either in humanitarian issues or spiritual issues.Don’t be afraid with Gods plan and agendars because tommorow its you with that book in your hand.

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