[Ottawa, ON August 30, 2017] On behalf of its Board of Directors, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) would like to extend its sincere congratulations to Ministers Jane Philpott and Carolyn Bennett who were appointed to two new Ministerial positions on August 28, 2017. Minister Bennett will transition from her role as Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to her new role as Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations while Minister Philpott will transition from her current role as Minister of Health to her new role as Minister of Indigenous Services.
While little information is available about how this change will impact the Friendship Centre Movement, NAFC President Christopher Sheppard expressed optimism upon hearing the news. “The shift in this government’s approach is a potential game changer when it comes to the way that programs and services are delivered to Indigenous people across Canada including those who are served by one of more than 118 Friendship Centres across Canada.” He went on to say that, “in the past, Friendship Centres have had limited direct access to Federal funding that supports programs and services for Indigenous people, particularly when it has come to health-related programs and services. I am hopeful that in her new role, Minister Philpott will be provided with an expanded mandate that will prioritize health specific programs and services including the much-needed supports for mental wellness programs for our youth.”
More than 780,000 or 56% of Indigenous people currently live in one of Canada’s cities. With this number expected to continue to rise exponentially in the coming years, it will be imperative that the Federal Government consider the growing service needs of this population. Moreover, as the urban Indigenous population is among the youngest and fastest growing population in Canada, there is a need for increased support for urban Indigenous youth to ensure that they have the opportunities and support to achieve their life goals. “We often say that our youth are our future and we owe it to them to ensure that they have the support they need to secure bright futures. This shift represents an opportunity to ensure a service continuum that will nurture their roles as the leaders of not only tomorrow but of today” said President Sheppard.
While the NAFC is optimistic about the change, it has also expressed concerns that the isolation of programs and services may further reduce its capacity to advocate nationally on behalf of Friendship Centres and Provincial Territorial Associations. “In addition to our long history of successfully administering program funds on behalf of the Federal Government that support the Centres’ operations, we also work to inform policies that impact urban Indigenous people. This requires human resource capacity to develop partnerships, and do research and policy related work, as our part of our overall approach to achieving program and service delivery excellence,” stated NAFC Executive Director Erin Corston. Corston went on to say that, “we are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to meet with Minister Philpott in the coming weeks so that we can begin the process of developing a relationship and support for a joint commitment to work towards ensuring the health and prosperity of urban Indigenous people for generations to come.”
The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is a network of 125 Friendship Centres and Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs) from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Friendship Centres are Canada’s most significant off-reserve Indigenous service delivery infrastructure and are the primary providers of culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Indigenous residents. For over half-a- century, Friendship Centres have been facilitating the transition of Indigenous people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. For many Indigenous people, Friendship Centres are the first point of contact to obtain referrals to cultural based socio-economic programs and services.
As the national body of the Friendship Centre Movement, the NAFC is democratically governed, status blind and accountable to its membership.
Erin Corston, Executive Director