Friendship Centres call upon the Government of Canada for an increase to current AFCP core funding.
National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and Friendship Centre delegates from across the country will meet tomorrow with Members of Parliament in a push to draw attention to the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Programs (AFCP) significant core funding issues.
Since 1996, Friendship Centres have not received provisions for inflation rates, new technology demands, nor improvements to Friendship Centre facilities; yet, are expected to have the capacity to provide services to a growing and complex urban Aboriginal population.
NAFC President Vera Pawis Tabobondung said, “These are difficult and frustrating times for Friendship Centres as they continue to operate on an annual budget that has not changed since 1996. The steady increase in urban Aboriginal population and inflation since the 90’s has resulted in more spending to maintain current operations and expand on programming and services. The demand is so great, yet the resources are so little. How does the Canadian government expect us to survive?”
For more than 40 years the Friendship Centre Movement has provided culturally enhanced programs and services to the urban Aboriginal population. Friendship Centres have a strong and successful reputation within their respective communities and have been identified by government and organizations for their outstanding commitment to urban Aboriginal service delivery. No other agency or government department in Canada offers more programs for urban Aboriginal people than Friendship Centres.
Information sharing conducted by the Environics Institute identified Friendship Centres as the most useful Aboriginal service organization in Canada. In addition, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues (UNPFII) 9th Session report has clearly identified the Friendship Centre Movement ‘as an example of a good practice model for developing Indigenous peoples’ and further identifies the need for the Government of Canada to establish working relationships with the Friendship Centre Movement and other relevant Indigenous organizations to address through a cooperative effort the needs of Canada’s urban Aboriginal peoples.
NAFC Executive Director Peter Dinsdale said, “We need to ensure the Government of Canada is onboard with our vision and future success. With over 54 percent of all Aboriginal people living in urban areas, a number growing every day, Friendship Centres will undoubtedly continue being an essential program hub in urban Canada. The Government of Canada needs to be aware of the current state the Friendship Centre Movement is in. It is a shared responsibility and tomorrows meetings will clearly identify the need for government commitment for increased AFCP core funding.”
On average, it costs around $300,000 per year to operate a Friendship Centre. The AFCP only allocates in the area of $130,000 of core funding to these Centres leaving the Friendship Centres to find additional funding from other sources. Despite Friendship Centres ability to leverage funds from other sources, the increased demand for services is compounded by the rapidly growing urban population.
The federal government has invested in Friendship Centres for more than 40 years. The long-term sustainability requires enhancements to the funding levels that were established in 1996. While the urban Aboriginal population over the past decade has more than doubled in some cities, funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP) to support the core activities of Friendship Centres, has not changed.