Volunteer driven and operated, Friendship Centres began in the mid-1950s as the number of Indigenous people moving into larger urban areas increased.
Indigenous agencies emerged out of a clear need for specialized services to help Aboriginal newcomers to the city. These agencies would provide referrals and offer counselling on matters of employment, housing, education, health and liaison with other community organizations.
As the demand for services by urban migrating First Nations, Inuit and Métis people increased so did the number of Friendship Centres. The nature of programming and services was quickly enhanced.
In the late sixties, Friendship Centres began to organize into Provincial/Territorial Associations (PTAs) and the notion of establishing a national body to represent the growing number of Friendship Centres gained popularity.
By 1972, Friendship Centres had evolved from provision of referrals to “front-line” delivery vehicles of social services and by 1996, administrative responsibility for the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP) was transferred from the Department of Canadian heritage to the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC). This new agreement meant that all operational funding for the AFCP would be administered by the NAFC to Friendship Centres and the PTAs. This transfer signified a new era in Indigenous/Government relations and, to this day highlights a unique relationship with the Government of Canada. This relationship continues to evolve. In 2014, the Government of Canada and the NAFC announced the new Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS), a funding agreement aimed at ensuring the full inclusion of Indigenous people in Canada’s economy.
Today, over half a century after the initial development of Friendship Centres in Canada, the Friendship Centre Movement has expanded and continues to offer essential programs and services to urban Indigenous people across Canada.
Origin of the Friendship Centre Movement
1951: Friendship Centre established in Toronto, ON – North American Indian Club.
1952: Friendship Centre established in Vancouver, BC – Coqualeetza Fellowship Club.
1959: Friendship Centre established in Winnipeg, MB – Indian and Métis Friendship Centre.
1968: 26 Friendship Centres across Canada.
1969: Friendship Steering Committee established to examine the feasibility of a national body to represent Friendship Centres.
1972: National Association of Friendship Centres is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization (75). Government of Canada implements the Migrating Native Peoples Programme (MNPP). 43 Friendship Centres across Canada.
1983: The NAFC and the Department of the Secretary of State (DSOS) successfully negotiated the evolution of the MNPP to an enriched Native Friendship Centre Program (NFCP). 80 Friendship Centres across Canada.
1988: The NFCP became the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP), which secured the status of the permanent funding from DSOS.
1996: The Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), formerly DSOS, transfers administrative responsibility of the AFCP to the NAFC. 114 Friendship Centres across Canada.
2001: The NAFC renews AFCP transfer agreement between PCH and NAFC.
2012: 117 Friendship Centres across Canada.
2014: Urban Aboriginal Strategy is realigned to include Community Capacity Supports and Urban Partnership Program.