The NAFC’s policy unit supports the work of the national office and the organization with focus on national and international issues and federal government matters. Issues and topics that the policy unit are requested to respond-to include: health, social, education, employment and training, youth, women’s issues, justice and nationhood. The policy unit also has the responsibility of preparing presentations, speeches and communications materials on matters that pertain to the mandate of the organization. The policy unit from time to time manages projects and research that are national in nature and scope. The policy unit also supports the work of the Executive Director in maintaining effective relationships with other national Aboriginal organizations, both political and professional. Further, the policy unit liaises with national and international mandated organizations to support awareness of the work of the Friendship Centre Movement and to create partnerships.
Current Policy Initiatives
Sharon McIvor and NAFC Exploratory Process
During the 2009 engagement on the Government's plan to implement the McIvor decision, First Nations and other Aboriginal groups identified a number of issues on Indian registration, band membership and First Nations citizenship that went beyond the scope of the decision and the legislative amendments passed under Bill C-3. At that time, First Nations and other Aboriginal groups also called for a federal commitment to a joint process that would substantively examine and address these broader issues.
The Government of Canada recognized the importance of these issues to First Nations and other Aboriginal groups. The Government also recognized that issues surrounding Indian registration, band membership and citizenship are complex and that First Nations and other Aboriginal groups hold diverse views on these matters. It is clear that broader reform cannot be achieved overnight, or in isolation, and requires the gathering of information and the identification of critical issues for discussion prior to embarking on any process for substantive change.
As a result, when Bill C-3 was tabled on March 11, 2010, the Government announced its intention to launch an Exploratory Process on issues relating to Indian registration, band membership and citizenship. With the passage of Bill C-3, the Exploratory Process was officially launched. Activities under the Exploratory Process are expected to take place over a period of one year, ending in December 2011.
The Exploratory Process is an Aboriginal-led initiative that is meant to examine and discuss the broader issues relating to Indian registration, band membership and citizenship that go beyond the scope of the Bill C-3 amendments. It is important to note that the government has not pre-determined or pre-defined the agenda or questions in terms of subject-matters dealing with registration, membership and citizenship.
The Exploratory Process was designed to be inclusive by encouraging the participation of First Nations, Métis and other Aboriginal groups, organizations and individuals at the national, regional and local community levels. This includes the participation of national, provincial/territorial, regional First Nations organizations, Métis and other Aboriginal organizations, Treaty First Nations and Nation groups, Tribal Councils, First Nations governments and communities, Métis communities, First Nations individuals living on and off reserve, Métis individuals and other interested parties.
Information collected from the Friendship Centre dialogue sessions and website questionnaire were compiled into a national report. It is hoped that the national report will be used as consideration in the development and implementation of future government policies to create stronger government relations with Aboriginal Canadians. The national report will also be used to guide policy and advocacy for the Friendship Centre Movement in the areas of self-determination, nationhood, identity, citizenship, registration and membership.
Matrimonial Real Property
Matrimonial Real Property is the land and everything attached to the land that spouses occupy during their marriage. More simply, it is often described as the family home. The division of matrimonial real property resulting from marriage breakdown has been extremely problematic in First Nations communities.
The Friendship Centre position on Matrimonial Real Property is informed by a number of realities. Friendship Centres, despite their urban location, often maintain strong ties to their reserve communities and preserve an on-going commitment to and peripheral involvement in First Nations issues. These conditions enable Friendship Centres to offer an important complement to the information collected from First Nations communities about what is seen as exclusively “on reserve” issues. Further, these connections enable the espousal by Friendship Centres of First Nations jurisdiction. This support, however, is tempered by the knowledge that First Nations communities suffer from various limitations and that it is frequently the role of Friendship Centres to fill the gaps caused by those limitations. For example, while First Nations communities may experience the initial impacts of MRP practices, in many instances, First Nations services and programs are not sufficient to meet the needs of women and children, particularly those fleeing from domestic violence. Rather, these individuals end up on the doorstep of Friendship Centres, desperate for assistance and shelter. It is therefore critical to Friendship Centres that the notion of First Nations jurisdiction that will lead to new MRP regimes be accompanied by clear standards. These standards must include implementation strategies that support holistic and appropriate Friendship Centre programs and services for those in need of them.
Friendship Centres are often not consulted when discussions occur about legislation and First Nations communities. Despite their historic contributions in supporting First Nations people when they leave their communities, the perspective and experience of Friendship Centres are frequently not regarded as pertinent to the matter at hand. The MRP consultation with the National Association of Friendship Centres demonstrates the importance of looking beyond the usual “affected” parties in crafting solutions to historic concerns.
In 2006, the NAFC published an exploratory paper and held a national gathering focused on family literacy in Aboriginal Friendship Centre communities. These activities triggered significant interest in and discussion around family literacy development in the Friendship Centre Movement, as well as some significant activities in parts of the country.
A Full Circle Curriculum is nearing completions and will be distributed to Friendship Centres across Canada in 2012. The Friendship Centre curriculum is framed to grow naturally in diverse Friendship Centres, and may also come to be adapted for use with a wider variety of groups and agencies.
Aboriginal Youth Tobacco Cessation Project
Since late 2009, the NAFC has been working on an Aboriginal Youth Tobacco Cessation project, funded by Health Canada. This project has primarily been focussed on developing a new and improved youth tobacco cessation toolkit aimed at helping urban Aboriginal youth and their peers to quit smoking and chewing tobacco. The development of the toolkit was based on updating and improving a previous toolkit that the NAFC developed in 2005 Everyone Loves a Quitter: Tobacco Cessation Toolkit. The new toolkit has been developed for Aboriginal youth with Aboriginal youth input and involvement and with Friendship Centres’ involvement. The toolkit contains knowledge and information about tobacco based on Aboriginal traditions, culture and knowledge. In addition to the toolkit, the NAFC developed a facilitator’s guide which is intended to help Friendship Centre workers facilitate youth tobacco cessation support groups and it complements the youth cessation toolkit.
Tobacco Cessation Facilitators Guide
Tobacco Cessation Toolkit
Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative
The goal of the NAFC Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative is to evaluate the capacity of diabetes prevention programs and services in relation to the prevalence /incidence of diabetes and needs of urban Aboriginal peoples.
Diabetes is a key public health concern for Aboriginal peoples as Aboriginal peoples are three to five times more likely to experience Type 2 Diabetes than non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal peoples are also increasingly living in urban areas as Census 2006 reports that 54% of the total Aboriginal population in Canada live in urban areas, up from 50% in 1996.