The friendship centre movement.
THE FRIENDSHIP CENTRE MOVEMENT was once a powerful force in Indigenous urban communities, but over the four decades since they were established across the country, friendship centres have had to endure severe cuts to the services they provide because of underfunding. The centres are not less valuable today than they were, say, even a decade ago. In fact, as more and more Indigenous people flock to the city centres, and the economic global woes press down like a heavy weight on communities, the friendship centre is perhaps more important now than it was in the past. That's why the National Association of Friendship Centres, in partnership with the department of Canadian Heritage, has released a Business Case for the Long-Term Sustainability of Friendship Centres. You can find it at www.nafcaboriginal.com
We all know that Aboriginal people represent the fastest growing population in Canada, but did you know that the number of urban Aboriginal people is the fastest growing. More than 70 per cent of Aboriginal people do not live on reserves. In 2007/08, friendship centres across Canada delivered more than 1,300 programs and services worth more than $93 million to over 1.3 million participants on a status blind basis. The entire Friendship Centre Movement, consisting of 118 friendship centres, delivered almost $109 million in programs and services to Canada's increasing urban Aboriginal population. With the $16.1 million in support for core operations from Canadian Heritage's Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP), friendship centres delivered over $37 million for federal departments; over $39 million for provincial/territorial governments; $4.5 million for municipal governments; and $4 million for non-governmental and other Aboriginal organizations.
The friendship centres however are calling for an examination of the funding levels. They say funding needs to be enhanced given the pressing realities of today. And the fact that the funding levels have remained unchanged for over a decade seems to suggest that the time is upon the government to pry open the treasury purse.
The report says that urban Aboriginals experience lower education levels, higher unemployment rates and lower income levels than the rest of the urban population. "Friendship centres are one of the first demonstrations of contemporary Aboriginal self-determination--today they continue to be at the frontline serving the pressing needs of urbanAboriginal people," the executive summary reads.
Friendship centres play a pivotal role in community and economic development by providing employment opportunities and training, facilitating social development, and building human and resource capacity.