Friendship Centres cautiously hopeful by the government’s recommitment to Indigenous issues

Friendship Centres cautiously hopeful by the government’s recommitment to Indigenous issues

On September 23, 2020, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the second session of the 43rd Parliament. This year’s throne speech held considerable weight due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Indigenous people.

“We are feeling cautiously hopeful”, said Jocelyn Formsma, executive director of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC). “While the NAFC is encouraged by the government’s recommitment to Indigenous issues, we are concerned that a focus on a distinctions-based approach will leave urban Indigenous people and organizations as an afterthought.”

The Government of Canada’s current distinctions-based approach to Indigenous engagement and funding focuses on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, without specifically accounting for those who are in urban or rural areas.

“We would be reassured to know that the Government of Canada is including urban Indigenous people in its distinctions-based approach,” said NAFC president Christopher Sheppard, “However, our experience thus far is that a distinctions-based approach often leaves urban Indigenous people, organizations, and unique communities behind.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Friendship Centres have been on the frontlines providing essential community-driven supports and filling gaps. Urban Indigenous community members rely on Friendship Centres now, more than ever, for trusted information-sharing and a variety of wrap-around supports.

“The NAFC is willing to roll up their sleeves in whatever way we can to assist our urban Indigenous community members in getting through this next year, but we need to be properly resourced by the Government to do so,” said Formsma.

“The vast majority of Indigenous people are currently living in urban, rural, remote and northern communities–off-reserve, outside of Inuit Nunangat, and off Métis settlements,” continued Sheppard. “Because of that, it is crucial that organizations–such as the NAFC, that serve the urban Indigenous population everyday, are included in the roll-out of the Government’s commitments in the years ahead.”

Some of the commitments to Indigenous Peoples mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, include: moving forward with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; addressing systemic racism; police and criminal justice reform; and, continuing the development of distinctions-based health models. To read the full Speech from the Throne, refer to the Government of Canada’s website.

For media inquiries:

Sara Kelly, Communications Officer

The NAFC represents over 100 local Friendship Centres and Provincial/Territorial Associations in every province and territory in Canada (except Prince Edward Island). Friendship Centres are urban Indigenous community hubs that provide a wide range of programs and services for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living in urban, rural, and northern communities. Collectively, Friendship Centres are the largest and most comprehensive urban Indigenous service delivery network in Canada.