The Indigenous population in Canada is young, growing, and largely urban-based. It is important that we redefine the notion of Indigenous and place. Indigenous people are urban based for many reasons, including the fact that the city is where they were born and raised. Indigenous people also travel between urban centres and their respective home communities. Reasons also include, but are not limited to:
- Access to health care
- Engagement with the justice system and incarceration
- Child welfare
- Social supports, among others.
While the reasons for Indigenous people being in urban settings are many, there remains a gap between the availability of services and the accessibility of those services for urban Indigenous community members. While there is an ever-present and growing Indigenous middle class, poverty remains high for urban Indigenous people. The need for culturally safe and accessible urban Indigenous-specific and led community supports is high and continually growing.
Friendship Centres are an excellent example of Indigenous self-determined non-political and non-representative structures led by Indigenous people that have been created by and for Indigenous peoples in urban settings. Indigenous people should not feel ‘less Indigenous’ because they are urban based.
The urban Indigenous population will continue to grow. As it does, so will the demand for Friendship Centre programs and services. Friendship Centres are continually being called on to play larger roles in service delivery, but also in key urban Indigenous policy development, creating safer communities, and contributing to their local economies.
Since July 2020, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) played an active role as a member of the Missing and Murdered Women, Girls (MMIWG) and 2SLGTBQQIA+ National Action Plan Urban Sub Working Group (USWG), comprised of members from urban Indigenous communities and organizations from all regions of Canada. On June 3, 2021, the 2021 MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People was published.
As a member of the USWG, the NAFC was involved in the creation of the urban framework of the National Action Plan entitled, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan | Urban Path to Reclaiming Power and Place, Regardless of Residency. The framework includes a call to recognize urban Indigenous legitimacy, outlines urban realities, provides a definition of urban Indigenous people, and outlines urban perspectives on the baskets of rights: culture, health and wellness, safety and human security, and justice.
The NAFC fully supports and adopts USWG’s urban Indigenous definition:
**First Nation, Inuit and Métis people living in small, medium and large communities, including rural, isolated and remote communities, which are: off-reserve; outside of their home community, community of origin or settlement; or outside of **Inuit Nunangat (**Inuit Homelands).
This definition is based on the following interconnected elements which are considered and reflected in our definition of "urban *Indigenous:"
- demographic evolution
- complex identities
- geographic inclusion
- portability of rights
- jurisdictional wrangling
We are calling upon all governments, including **First Nation, Inuit and Métis governments and organizations to accept, respect and apply this definition.