OTTAWA, March 22, 2017 – The Federal Government released its strategy for “Building a Strong Middle Class” today that describes its focus on the middle class as central to strengthening and growing Canada’s economy. The President of the National Association of Friendship Centres, Mr. Christopher Sheppard is cautiously optimistic about the Government’s commitments to the urban Indigenous community nationally. More information will be needed however, to better understand how these commitments will impact the Friendship Centre Movement’s ability to strengthen and grow its suite of services and programs.
Friendship Centres make up Canada’s most expansive network of service and program delivery for the 780,000 Indigenous people who call the city their home. Centres offer training and skills programs, day care and parenting programs, and a broad range of services that specifically address the challenges faced by some of Canada’s most at-risk community members, Indigenous women and children. Sustainable and adequate funding, infrastructure and other supports are necessary for urban Indigenous people to live healthy and productive lives, and to facilitate their equitable engagement in Canada’s socioeconomic development.
President Sheppard said he was encouraged by the five-year commitment in this Budget to the Urban Indigenous Strategy that will support “Indigenous service centres providing a one-window approach to programs and services. “This is exactly what Friendship Centres have done for the last 50+ years” said Sheppard. He added that Centres have had challenges operating within the year-to-year funding structure, and that “this multi-year commitment brings a level of security and confidence that the programs and services Centres provide will continue from one year to the next.”
Mr. Sheppard also acknowledged the Government’s contributions to off reserve housing through the National Housing Strategy, the largest single commitment in this Budget. Several Friendship Centres are themselves social housing providers. “This funding will go a long way towards addressing some of the biggest challenges Indigenous peoples’ face in their efforts to participate in the Canadian economy,” said the NAFC President. He was also encouraged by the expanded commitments to housing research as part of the National Housing Strategy.
Canada’s commitment to labour market development through the Access to Skills Developing and Training (ASETS) for Indigenous peoples also provides the NAFC reason to be optimistic. The NAFC President said he was encouraged by the commitment to renew and improve ASETS through the $50M investment in 2017-18.
Christopher Sheppard, NAFC President