OTTAWA, February 28, 2018 – The Federal Government released its strategy for “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class” today that focuses strongly on achieving gender equality as a means of strengthening and growing Canada’s economy. The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) acknowledges this Government’s efforts to close the gender gap and notes that Indigenous women including those living in urban centres are more often than not disproportionately under-represented in Canada’s flourishing economy. “Indigenous women experience a number of systemic and societal barriers that prevent them from equitably participating in the economy” stated Christopher Sheppard, President of the NAFC. Mr. Sheppard went on to say that “investments in early learning and child care, enhanced training and learning and enhanced parental leave flexibility are good first steps in achieving equality” but Sheppard also cautioned that the unique and diverse needs of urban Indigenous women will not be fully met through a broad-strokes approach.
President Sheppard also acknowledged the significance of the Government’s $5-billion commitment to Indigenous communities across Canada but stated that, “it is not yet clear how this investment will contribute to supporting much needed programs and services for the urban Indigenous population.” He did express optimism however about the Government’s commitment to invest $213-million in the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program (ISETS) that will ensure that urban Indigenous people have access to services through the program.” He was less optimistic however, about the lack of investments in basic necessities such as safe and affordable housing for urban Indigenous people noting that “a strong and capable workforce requires more than the development of basic skills and a willingness to work. Socio-economic development through workplace development requires a unique and diverse approach that includes the development of a strong foundation grounded in the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being of families and communities. This is the role that Friendship Centres across Canada have played for more than half a century and ensuring the success of the strategies that were announced today requires the full and meaningful engagement of Friendship Centres.”
President Sheppard concluded his comments by stating, “it is our hope that this Government’s commitment to the implementation of Gender Based Analysis+ across all federal departments along with its ongoing commitment to reconciliation will result in increased opportunities for the Friendship Centre Movement to work in collaboration with the Government of Canada to further identify and address the needs of more than 780,000 urban Indigenous people regardless of the gender that they were assigned at birth.”
The NAFC is a network of member Friendship Centres and Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs) from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Friendship Centres are Canada’s most significant off-reserve Indigenous service delivery infrastructure and are the primary providers of culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Indigenous residents. For over half-a-century, Friendship Centres have been facilitating the transition of Indigenous people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. For many Indigenous people, Friendship Centres are the first point of contact to obtain referrals to cultural based socio-economic programs and services.
Christopher Sheppard, NAFC President