Urban Aboriginal People Concerned with Slow Government Response Ottawa, ON: – Noting that the Supreme Court decision on Corbiere takes effect in one year, Dennis Francis, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) stated that he is surprised by the federal government’s slow response in working towards implementing the decision. The decision, which reaffirmed the right of First Nations citizens to vote in band elections, was handed down on May 20, 1999. However, the Supreme Court suspended the decision’s effect for a period of eighteen months, to allow time for the government and First Nations groups to consult and develop an implementation process. “We believe that an implementation plan for a decision of such scope can only be effective if all those involved are consulted or, in fact, direct the consultations,” says Francis. “Yet six months have gone by with little apparent progress by the department.” Mr. Francis stated that the NAFC has been ready to work on implementing Corbiere since May and has developed comprehensive consultation models for working with urban First Nations people. The Association has also been partnering with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to discuss and refine strategies and positions. “Friendship Centres across this country – and there are 116 in operation – have received calls from First Nations people who are clients or members of the Centres regarding Corbiere,” commented Francis. “They want to know how and when they can vote in their communities elections, and what the government is doing to assist the national Aboriginal organizations in implementing a smooth transition process.” Francis noted the frustration expressed by many First Nations people living in urban communities on the delay. “Many have kept close ties with their home communities and may wish to be active participants in governance issues – Corbiere provides a first step in this process,” he added. The NAFC is a national Aboriginal organization which represents the interests of Aboriginal people living in an urban environment. Paul Lacerte, Executive Director of the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), commented that “…the NAFC represents the interests of Aboriginal people in obtaining services when they are away from their home communities. Friendship Centres are well positioned to assist with the implementation of Corbiere.”
Ten Year Anniversary of the Government’s “Child Poverty” Resolution Urban Aboriginal Children Remain Poorest of the Poor Ottawa, ON: – More than 50% of all Aboriginal people live in poverty, says Dennis Francis, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and, “…with more than 55% of Aboriginal people being under the age of 24, our children are the poorest of the poor.” Mr. Francis was commenting on the ten year anniversary of the federal government’s “Child Poverty” resolution. On November 24, 1989, the House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution which read, in part, “…This House…seek(s) to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000”. In 1989, one in seven Canadian children lived in poverty. Today, rather than being eliminated, or even reduced, child poverty has actually increased; 1 in 5 – or 1.5 million – children now live in poverty. Mr. Francis noted that 56% of Aboriginal people living off-reserve are women and children and that nearly 70% of these people have incomes below the poverty line. “How can we be proud of the fact that Canada ranked first on the United Nation’s list, when so many Aboriginal children are without the basics of life – food, adequate shelter, good health, employment?”, asked Mr. Francis. Stacy Hill, President of the NAFC’s Aboriginal Youth Council (AYC) notes that “…in addition, these children often grow up without hope, without education. The Council tries to address many of these issues, but it is difficult when the government does not live up to its’ promises.” Ms. Hill also raised the issue of children being in care of Children’s Aid Societies, which may often be the result of single parent families trying to raise children without adequate resources. “Of these children in care, ” stated Ms Hill, “the ratio of Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal children is 7 to 1!” Aboriginal children in care was also addressed by the Chairperson of the 1996 Canadian Child Welfare Conference Steering Committee, who state that, ‘”If all children in Canada were in the situation of Aboriginal youth, we would declare a national emergency.”‘ On November 24, many community and social service agencies, such as Friendship Centres, will be marking the ten year anniversary with a vigil to silently protest the increase in child poverty. The NAFC is a national Aboriginal organization which, through a variety of lobbying and advocacy work, seeks to improve the quality of life for urban Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Youth Council’s primary function is to facilitate the opportunities of urban Aboriginal youth, and advocates and lobbies on such issues as youth suicide, homelessness, education and employment.
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Corbiere Decision To Be Discussed in Urban Aboriginal Communities Ottawa, ON: – The National Association of Friendship Centres is pleased to announce that on March 30, it will begin a series of community consultations on the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) Corbiere decision. The decision, which reaffirmed the right of First Nations citizens to vote in band elections, was handed down by the SCC on May 20, 1999. However, the Court suspended the effect of the decision for a period of eighteen months, to allow time for the government and First Nations groups to consult and develop an implementation process. The government did not confirm funding to interested organizations until December 1999. However, the NAFC and the AFN have been working closely on this issue to discuss and refine strategies and positions, since the decision was released. The NAFC determined that it could best achieve its consultation goals by first developing and distributing a survey designed to secure comment on the decision from First Nations members who are living in urban centres. The Association would then facilitate a series of community dialogues, held in Friendship Centres across the country. Beginning in Thunder Bay on March 30, NAFC representatives will host community consultations in a total of nine (9) cities over the course of two weeks. During these dialogue sessions, First Nations participants will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on such issues as: voting in their band’s elections; whether or not band elections and other voting processes could be held in urban Aboriginal communities; and, whether or not the SCC decision has other, more far reaching impacts. These might include: increased access of non-resident band members to programs and services or voting on the design and implementation of those programs. In addition to Thunder Bay, consultations will be held in: Brandon, Manitoba (March 31); Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (April 3); Edmonton, Alberta (April 4); Kamloops, British Columbia (April 6); Vancouver, British Columbia (April 7); Toronto, Ontario (April 11); Montreal, Quebec (April 12); and, Halifax, Nova Scotia (April 13). These communities were selected on the advice of the Association’s Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTAs), and considering the potential volume of participation and the proximity to First Nations communities. The NAFC is a national Aboriginal organization which represents the interests of Aboriginal people living in an urban environment. Paul Lacerte, Executive Director of the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), commented that “…the NAFC represents the interests of Aboriginal people in obtaining services when they are away from their home communities. Friendship Centres are well positioned to assist with the implementation of Corbiere.”
Ottawa, ON: – The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is expressing its support of the work completed by the Save the Children Canada: National Aboriginal Consultation Project, which is bringing the heartbreaking issue of the sexual exploitation of Aboriginal children and youth to the nation’s attention.
“The information gathered through 22 consultation sessions across the country should clearly be a wake-up call to all levels of government, organizations, institutions and agencies,” says Marie Whattam, Vice-President of the NAFC. She added that the consultation report, prepared by Save the Children and entitled “Sacred Lives: Canadian Aboriginal Children and Youth Speak Out about Sexual Exploitation”, “…clearly demands that the issue of sexually exploited Aboriginal youth and children be put on the public agenda.”
The report includes personal statements, drawn upon first-hand experience, related by Aboriginal children and youth. “It is extremely disturbing to learn that children as young as nine years of age are involved in the sex trade and that, in some communities, 90% of the visible sex trade is Aboriginal…”, states Ms. Whattam. “These youth should not have to barter their greatest possession – themselves – for the simple necessities of life which other Canadians enjoy,” she added.
The consultation, and the report, has been supported over the past months by representatives from several Aboriginal organizations, including the NAFC. “The NAFC has appreciated the opportunity to work closely with the coordinators on this issues,” says Ms. Whattam, “because this is an issue that demands to be heard – not ignored. For too long, blame for this issue has been laid at the feet of the victims and not with the society which created the demand.”
The NAFC is supporting this project, and the proposed solutions, because it believes there are ways of developing “…safe havens, where children and youth already in the sex trade or in danger of becoming involved, may go for sanctuary,” noted Ms. Whattam. “There are actions or steps we can take to stop the cycle of exploitation.”
The NAFC is a national Aboriginal organization which represents the interests of Aboriginal people living in the urban environment, through the development, delivery and advocacy of programs and services which assist Aboriginal people living away from their home communities.
Ottawa, Ontario: – “Official recognition of the many contributions of Aboriginal veterans in this country’s participation in wars, armed conflicts and peace keeping missions is long overdue,” says Dennis Francis, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres. “The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument will focus the country’s attention on the invaluable contribution of Aboriginal veterans throughout the years.” Thousands of Aboriginal people enlisted in the Canadian army during the First World War; many died in action and many were decorated. “Despite losing rights such as their status as First Nations members, thousands again enlisted during the Second World War,” stated Mr. Francis. “Aboriginal people served in major battles and campaigns, including Dieppe, D-Day, the Italian campaign and the liberation of Holland,” he added. The monument, being officially unveiled in Confederation Park in Ottawa on June 21 – National Aboriginal Day – will stand as a tribute to Aboriginal veterans. Four figures on the monument represent the various Aboriginal groups in Canada: two figures hold weapons and two hold items of a spiritual or peaceful nature. Mr. Francis also noted that the monument addresses the important role of Aboriginal women as well, as they figure prominently in two of the four base panels and in the upper part of the sculpture.
Unveiling ceremonies begin at 12:00 noon, with the arrival of the Governor General, Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson. The Governor General will be assisted in the ceremony by Claude Petit, President of the National Aboriginal Veterans Association (NAVA). Expected guests include veterans from across the country, respected Elders and community leaders, as well as leaders from most of the national Aboriginal organizations.
“The Romanow Report brings good news for urban Aboriginal peoples across Canada”, said Mary Head, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) in Ottawa today. “For too long, urban Aboriginal peoples have fallen through the cracks in the health system caused by endless jurisdictional wrangling among the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments. It is time for a change in attitudes and a change in direction. Mr. Romanow has shown not only the wisdom to understand this, but the courage to say it out loud.” The report calls for the consolidation of Aboriginal health funding from all sources to support the creation of Aboriginal Health Partnerships to manage and organize health services for Aboriginal peoples and promote Aboriginal health. Aboriginal Health Partnerships would have a mandate to use the funding to address specific health needs, improve access to all levels of health care, recruit new Aboriginal health providers and increase training for non-Aboriginal healthcare providers. Aboriginal peoples would play a central role in the direction and design of health services in their communities. The report also calls for a major breakthrough in primary health care change, including the integration of prevention and promotion initiatives. Friendship Centres have long supported a holistic approach to wellness and the NAFC supports Mr. Romanow’s efforts to move health care systems in this direction. The report suggests using the Aboriginal Health Partnerships model as a basis for approaching delivery of primary health care for Aboriginal peoples in different settings. The NAFC endorses this approach. Judith Moses, Executive Director of the NAFC, said “we are looking forward to working with the other national Aboriginal organizations to turn Mr. Romanow’s recommendations into reality and improve the quality of life for urban Aboriginal peoples.” The NAFC represents a network of 117 Friendship Centres located in all regions of Canada. For more than 50 years Friendship Centres have delivered a broad range of health, social and economic development programs and services in urban settings. Friendship Centre programs and services are available to both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal peoples, regardless of where they reside.
The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) President Vera Pawis Tabobondung is disappointed that the Federal budget did not include significant spending measures for urban Aboriginal peoples. ” While we recognize that the Federal government has diminished resources, we are still disappointed to see no significant funding targeted to urban Aboriginal people,” commented Ms. Pawis Tabobondung. The 2004 budget did include some specific measures for urban Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy was renewed for an additional five years and will receive $125 million ($25 million per year). ” It is good to see the federal government renew the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy” said Mr. Bruce Parisian, Vice-President of the National Association of Friendship Centres . “Friendship Centres must be an active partner in any strategy aimed at employing and training Aboriginal people “. The Urban Aboriginal Strategy funding has been doubled to $50 million, will be extended for an additional year (now ends in 2006 – 2007), and will be expanded to 6 new communities. ” While I applaud the government’s intention to do work in more communities ,” stated Ms. Pawis Tabobondung, ” we must ensure that Aboriginal programming across the country is not done in an ad-hoc manner “. Of particular interest was a section that appeared on post-secondary education. While no specific funding measures where contained, the budget discussed the development of a new focus on retaining First Nation and Inuit post-secondary students. ” The measures for education are interesting “, stated Peter Dinsdale, Executive Director of the National Association of Friendship Centres. ” Only half of all of our people graduate from high school! There are just so many challenges in urban areas for Aboriginal peoples. Our people have double the rate of diabetes than Canadians at large. Almost 20% of urban Aboriginal people live in overcrowded housing! The reality is that at some point the federal government is going to have to show some leadership and work with urban Aboriginal people to address our needs .”. Perhaps the most forward thinking portion of the budget was found in a discussion of the social problems found by Aboriginal people in urban communities. The budget stated that: For many Aboriginal Canadians, access to education, training and employment is an important reason for choosing to live in urban centres. Yet too many Aboriginal Canadians remain on the margins of the local economy and community. Unfortunately, nothing in this budget changes that.
The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) demonstrated outside of the historic policy retreat between the Cabinet Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal leadership today. “ Friendship Centres need to be full and equal partners at the table”, stated NAFC President Vera Pawis Tabobondung. “We are the only national Aboriginal service delivery provider, yet we are not invited to talk about service delivery issues. ” The NAFC has been excluded from all planning and process meetings leading up to the policy retreat. This despite over 600 letters of concerns being sent to the Cabinet Committee on Aboriginal Affairs from Friendship Centres across the country. ” We have recieved no response from the federal government regarding our concerns”, noted Nelson Mayer, NAFC Vice-President. “We cannot sit back while the policy agenda is set without us “. Most troubling is the fact that policy accords are being set without Friendship Centre inclusion. Clear service delivery issues such as housing, life long learning and health are being discussed making the Friendship Centre exclusion all the more shocking. “ Our exclusion means that Friendship Centres will continue to be left out of policy discussions with the federal government”, commented Peter Dinsdale, Executive Director. “At some point the federal government will need to bring service providers into the conversation. The question is when? Where is our policy accord? ” The National Association of Friendship Centres is the only national Aboriginal organization providing programs and services through 117 Friendship Centres across the country.