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.