Native Friendship Centre

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A Friendship Centre is a non-profit community centre and Aboriginal program/service delivery organization located in many towns and cities in Canada to provide services to urban Aboriginals: Inuit, Métis, First Nations Non-Status and Non-Aboriginal people who live in urban areas. Native Friendship Centres have existed for more than 50 years, and are located in all provinces and territories. In 2004 there were 116 centres which served 750,000 individuals through 900 separate programs and services. The main coordinating body for Friendship Centres is the National Association of Friendship Centres.[1]

Beginnings and early history[edit]

The Friendship Centre Movement is a collective group of Aboriginal organizations in Canada. The Friendship Centre Movement (FCM) and the concept of a "Friendship Centre" began in 1951 with the registration of the first Friendship Centre as a society in Toronto, Ontario called the "North American Indian Club". In 1952, the 2nd Friendship Centre opened in Vancouver, British Columbia called the "Coqualeetza Fellowship Club" and in 1959 the 3rd Friendship Centre opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba called the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre, which was the first Friendship Centre to officially incorporate. By 1968, there were a total of 26 Friendship Centres in Canada, in 1983 there were 80 Friendship Centres in Canada, and in 2009, there are 118 Friendship Centres in Canada, and 7 Provincial/Territorial Associations (PTA's) representing the collective interests of the local Friendship Centres.

In the early 1950s in Canada, a noticeable number of Aboriginal people were moving from reserves to the larger urban areas of Canada, primarily to seek an improved quality of life. In an effort to address the needs expressed by their communities, concerned individuals began to push for the establishment of specialized agencies. These agencies would provide referrals and offer counselling on matters of employment, housing, education, health and liaison with other community organizations.

During the 1950s and 1960's, Friendship Centres were largely autonomous. They relied primarily on volunteers and were funded by fundraising activities, churches, service groups, and small grants. As the demand for services by urban and migrating First Nations, Inuit and Métis people increased so did the number of Friendship Centres. The nature of programming and services and critical need for more funding was quickly amplified.

In the late 1960s, Friendship Centres began to organize into Provincial / Territorial Association's (PTAs). In 1969, a steering committee of Friendship Centres was struck to examine the feasibility of establishing a national body to represent the growing number of Centres. By 1968, the involvement and effectiveness of Friendship Centres led to the expansion of the concept and operational model to 26 communities. In 1972, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) was incorporated to act as a communications link in Ottawa, Ontario. The NAFC's primary responsibility was to monitor activities and programs provided by the various federal departments. The NAFC also initiated discussions with the federal government to provide greater resources through Friendship Centres to migrating and urban Aboriginal peoples.

The Migrating Native Peoples Program 1972-1982[edit]

Until 1972, Friendship Centres were dependant, to a large degree, on individual volunteers and their ability to raise operating funds though various fund raising events, private donations and small grants from foundations and provincial and federal governments. Centres also began to evolve from the provision of referrals to the "front line" delivery of social services. In 1972 the Government of Canada formally recognized the viability of Friendship Centres and implemented the Migrating Native Peoples Program (MNPP). The MNPP was given a four year mandate to provide 40 Friendship Centres and the NAFC with Core operating funds. In 1976, the government conducted an evaluation of the MNPP which revealed the vital role that Friendship Centres played in the communities they served and the wide base of the community support they had established. The MNPP was extended for one year in order to evaluate the programs effectiveness. This evaluation revealed the vital role Friendship Centres had in their communities they served and the wide base of community support they had established. Also identified was the ability to expand services and programs as well as develop human resources.

In 1978, a renewed "Migrating Native Peoples Program" was approved with a five year mandate with enriched financial resources allowing the expansion of the Friendship Centre Movement to 80 Friendship Centres by 1983.

Friendship Centres were also able to utilize limited resources in a creative and flexible manner while remaining accountable to their communities. In spite of the many obstacles, Friendship Centres have continued to expand the programs and services offered to urban Aboriginal People.

Prior to the fulfillment of the MNPP, the NAFC and the Department of Secretary of State in 1982/1983 successfully negotiated a subsequent new and enriched "Native Friendship Centre Programme" or NFCP, which was approved by cabinet in 1983. The NFCP was given a five year mandate that recognized Friendship Centres as legitimate urban Aboriginal institutions responding to the needs of Aboriginal people.

The Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP)[edit]

In 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). This program, with a five year mandate, formally recognized "Friendship Centres as legitimate urban Native institutions responding to the needs of Native people." In 1988, the NFCP became the Aboriginal Friendship Centres Program (AFCP), which secured the status of permanent funding from DSOS.

In 1988, the federal government established a permanent program, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP). Because of the quality of services provided and the vital role they played in the communities they served, the Friendship Centres gained an increasingly positive reputation with the government as legitimate urban Native institutions responding to the needs of Native people.

The funding relationship fundamentally changed in 1996, when the administrative responsibility for the 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 to the local Friendship Centres and the PTAs. This devolution signified a new era in Aboriginal/Government relations and, to this day, suggests a unique relationship with the Government of Canada. It notably demonstrated a commitment on behalf of the government to increase the capacity and sustainability of Aboriginal organizations.

Today, over half of a century after the initial development of Friendship Centres in Canada, the Movement has expanded and continues to offer the same essential programs and services to urban Aboriginal people across Canada. A total of 118 Friendship Centres are members of the National Association of Friendship Centres.

The Friendship Centre Movement is unique in the broad spectrum of specialized services it provides to urban Aboriginal people across Canada. The provision of services currently offered at Friendship Centres is specialized and may include areas such as: Culture, Family, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Language, Justice, Housing, Health, Education, Employment, Economic Development and a variety of miscellaneous projects ranging from social activities to community building initiatives and special events.

The National Association of Friendship Centres[edit]

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) was established in 1972 to represent the growing number of Friendship Centres, at the national level.

Currently, the NAFC represents the concerns of 99 core funded and 15 non-core funded Friendship Centres, as well as 7 Provincial Territorial Associations (PTA's), across Canada.

The primary objectives are: to act as a central unifying body for the Friendship Centre Movement: to promote and advocate the concerns of Aboriginal Peoples: and, to represent the needs of local Friendship Centres across the country to the federal government and to the public in general.

The NAFC is a non-profit organization governed by a voluntary Board of directors composed of eleven regional representatives and a youth representative. There is also a five member Executive Committee, composed of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Youth Executive.

The composition of the NAFC Board of Directors is determined by the PTA's, which each appoint one representative. Where no PTA exists, the Friendship Centre can appoint one representative. Executive Committee members are elected for two year terms, at staggared intervals, at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association. The AGM is attended by delegates from each member Centre and each PTA.

The NAFC Board of directors meets quarterly during the year and the Executive committee normally meets once between each of the these meetings, or when special circumstances arise.

The NAFC also monitors the activities and programs of various federal government departments which have a mandate to provide either funding or services to urban Aboriginal people.

The NAFC further acts as a central communications body and facilitates external liaisons for both the Friendship Centres and the PTA's. This function ensures that the membership has timely access to information which may impact on their operations. The NAFC is also active on a number of external committees and associations which are related to urban Aboriginal people in areas such as: literacy, racism, AIDS, employment equity, economic development and justice to name a few.

Programs and service delivery[edit]

Friendship Centres offer a variety of programs and services in a culturally appropriate manner, practising an open-door policy where anyone, regardless of race, religion, income or nationality can access programs.

Visitors to Friendship Centres can often find access to referral and advocacy services, cultural programs, education and training, employment counselling, health programs, justice programs, children and youth programs, recreation programs and economic development. Friendship Centres also offer language training, entrepreneurial training, skills development, computer training, work site placements, nutrition programs, healing circles, alcohol and drug counselling, summer camps, day care centres, youth peer counselling, youth drop in centres, organized sports and leagues, wilderness training and facility rentals. Many Centres also have arts and crafts shops and organize pow-wows and other events throughout the year.

Friendship Centres provide over 1.3 million client contacts across Canada within the programs and services offered every year.

The Senate[edit]

Part of the Friendship Centre Movement, Senators are individuals who are recognized for representing a set of values which reflect past developments of the Movement while allowing the current leadership and Membership the right to define their own direction. The Senate are established by and part of the National Association of Friendship Centres governing Constitution and Bylaws.

Senators attend as advisors, on a rotating basis, all meetings of the Board of Directors, Annual General Meetings and other such special meetings of the membership, when invited.

Aboriginal Youth Council[edit]

The Aboriginal Youth Council (AYC) discusses and identifies youth priority issues, including stay in school initiatives; healing and wellness; suicide; preserving culture and heritage; cross cultural awareness; homelessness; youth leadership; employment and training; youth involvement at all levels of the Friendship Centre Movement; and more specifically, youth involvement in the decision-making processes of the Movement.

The AYC defines youth as being between the ages of 14-24.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.nafc-aboriginal.com/PDF/NAFC%20News%20Release%20-%20English.pdf