04/26/2012 05:27 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Minister questioned after cuts to homelessness program

Canada's human resources minister is refusing to explain why her department cut funding for a program that helps Montreal's homeless.

Last week the Harper government cut funding to the Réseau d'aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal (RAPSIM), an umbrella group that works with more than 90 local organizations.

RAPSIM traditionally receives $80,000 a year from Ottawa, which represents a quarter of its budget.

Montreal has tens of thousands of people who struggle with homelessness, and City Hall as well as the Quebec government both agree that RAPSIM an essential program.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley was questioned about the cut by journalists, RAPSIM, and opposition MPs in the House of Commons this week. Finley has refused to answer those questions, however. The only response came in a statement released by her ministry Thursday, stating that the government receives many requests for funding, and not all can be accepted.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau said that response is unacceptable.

"Why hasn't Mrs. Finley got the courage to stand up and say I didn't approve this for this reason? She's just basically turning her back on them," said Garneau.

Garneau said he and other opposition MPs have written to Finley demanding an explanation.

Cut sparks protest

About 100 people demonstrated against the cut Thursday in front of a federal building in downtown Montreal.

Cecile Brunelle works at a shelter for women with problems including violence, drugs, and poverty. She says RAPSIM is a critical voice for Montreal's less fortunate.

"It's very important for us, very important politically. It's acting as a leader for us," said Brunelle.