Aboriginal Friendship Centres
Friendship Centres are Canada’s most significant off-reserve Aboriginal service delivery infrastructure.
The National Association of Friendship Centres, or NAFC, is a network of 119 Friendship Centres from coast-to-coast-to-coast. The NAFC was established in 1972 to represent, nationally, the growing number of Friendship Centres that had emerged across Canada.
Friendship Centres are the primary providers of culturally-enhanced programs and services to urban Aboriginal residents. For over half-a-century, Friendship Centres have been facilitating the transition of Aboriginal people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. For many Aboriginal people, Friendship Centres are the first point of contact to obtain referrals to cultural based socio-economic programs and services.
As of 2011-2012, Friendship Centres across Canada delivered 1,439 programs to over 2.3 million participants on a status blind basis – that is, equally to status and non-status First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-Aboriginal people. Furthermore, the entire Friendship Centre Movement consisting of 119 Friendship Centres will deliver $123,990,823 million in programs and services to Canada’s rapidly increasing urban Aboriginal population.
Given that the urban Aboriginal population is the fastest growing segment of the Canadian Aboriginal population (54% in 2006) the value of Canada’s most significant network of Aboriginal service delivery providers will continue to grow.
Friendship Centres play a pivotal role in community and economic development by providing training and employment opportunities, facilitating social development, and building human and resource capacity.
Friendship Centres were one of the first institutions that provided urban Aboriginal people the opportunity to acquire knowledge and develop skills and experience as administrators of service delivery institutions. Through the devolution of the administration and delivery of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP) to the NAFC in 1996, conditions for the long-term development of modern Aboriginal governance were created.
The Friendship Centre Movement is made up of three distinct entities: individual Friendship Centres which provide services directly to urban Aboriginal residents in their communities; Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs) which administer programs to the Friendship Centres, provide training and coordination of services, lobby and work with the provincial/territorial governments on behalf of the Friendship Centres in their regions; and the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) which acts as a central unifying body for the Friendship Centre Movement, and is responsible for the program delivery and administration of the AFCP.
The NAFC’s core activities include enhancing governance practices, promoting and advocating for the Friendship Centre Movement, coordinating and facilitating the delivery of national programs and services, policy development, and acts as a mediation body to assist Friendship Centres in difficulty. It works with other representatives, service agencies, volunteer organizations, private industry, and all levels of government towards improving the lives of urban Aboriginal people.
A volunteer board of directors, comprised of members from each of the provinces and territories in which Friendship Centres are located governs the NAFC.
Recent audits and evaluations of federal programs found that the NAFC appropriately met requirements of Treasury Board’s Policy on Transfer Payments. They also found that the NAFC adequately monitored the Friendship Centres to ensure that they are performing and reporting in accordance with the funding agreements.
The NAFC is also a third party deliverer for Canadian Heritage for the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth (CCAY) and Young Canada Works– Aboriginal Urban Youth (YCW-AUY) programs.