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 Indigenous 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.
In 1972, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), was established to represent, nationally, the growing number of Friendship Centres and PTAs emerging across Canada. By this time, Friendship Centres had evolved from the provision of referrals to “front-line” delivery vehicles of social services.
By 1996, administrative responsibility for the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP) was transferred from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the NAFC. This new agreement meant that all operational funding for the AFCP would be administered by the NAFC directly to Friendship Centres and PTAs. This transfer signified a new era in Indigenous/Government relations and to this day, highlights a unique relationship with the Government of Canada.