Feds aren’t renewing employment contract

FEDERAL officials say they aren’t renewing an employment services contract with a prominent northwest agency because it failed to live up to its financial and other obligations.

The decision, effective March 31, ends more than 17 years of business by the Skeena Native Development Society (SNDS) in providing training and other employment-related services to northwestern aboriginal people.

The agency received the news Jan. 26 and the federal government’s employment services department, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), has already started looking for a replacement.

“In a routine monitoring visit, HRSDC found numerous ineligible expenses incurred by SNDS,” a statement from the federal agency indicated last week.

“In addition, it was found that SNDS was serving too few eligible clients. Accordingly, SNDS have not been meeting the obligations of its agreement,” the statement continued.

Although SNDS did attempt to correct past actions, federal officials said the “actions taken by SNDS to address this situation have not been sufficient.”

“As a result, and as part of the government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that taxpayer funding is used appropriately and effectively, HRSDC will not enter into a new agreement with SNDS....” the statement said.

“HRSDC is actively seeking another aboriginal organization to serve aboriginal clients in north-western BC through a Call for Proposals. The Government of Canada is committed to building effective partnerships to ensure aboriginal people have the skills and opportunity to contribute to Canada’s economy,” the statement said.

SNDS, which works out of offices at Kitsumkalum, was formed in the early 1990s after the federal government of the day decided aboriginal employment services would be best provided by aboriginal agencies.

The society provided a combination of subsidies for employers and direct subsidies to individuals in training and preparing people for a variety of jobs and careers. Included in its work were two job development agreements with labour unions.

It also built up connections and networks in encouraging aboriginal educational, employment and cultural participation in northwestern life.

Volunteers within the society, for example, played key roles in the Music and Friends festivals once held at Kitamaat Village.

Board members over the years have included prominent elected aboriginal and aboriginal government officials.

Founding society executive director Clarence Nyce retired in early 2010 and the post has been filled by an interim director since.

In a message posted on its website prior to the news being received that it would lose its contract, development society president Marjorie McRae said it was striving to meet requirements for accountability, building relationships with the private and sector and better preparing aboriginal people for jobs as part of the work required to receive a new federal contract.

“While the transition has been challenging to our organization we are making good progress and expect to enter a new agreement with Service Canada early in the 2011,” the message from McRae said.

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