1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 168

Thursday, May 30, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

National Association of Friendship Centres

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on Thursday, May 23, the National Association of Friendship Centres, MPs Jean Crowder and Chris Warkentin, and I hosted a luncheon reception to celebrate friendship centres in Canada’s urban communities.

The National Association of Friendship Centres’ board of directors and staff were present at this event, as were their counterparts from the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Building Construction and Trades Association.

The National Association of Friendship Centres’ executive director, Mr. Jeff Cyr, and his colleagues, Ms. Farren Saulis, Ms. Heather King-Andrews, Mr. Rufus Jacob and Kelly Patrick, were the organizers of the event.

Friendship centres provide culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Aboriginal people. They facilitate the transition of Aboriginal people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. Friendship centres are the first point of contact for obtaining referral to culturally based socio-economic programs and services.

These centres support Aboriginal peoples whether they are searching for a place to live, seeking assistance with finding employment, having difficulty accessing health services or searching for a safe place to gather with other Aboriginal peoples.

Honourable senators, over 60 per cent of the Aboriginal population now lives in cities. Friendship centres across Canada serve this growing population, more than half of which is youth under the age of 25.

The impact that the friendship centres have on Aboriginal men and women is life-changing. Andrea Landry, a 24-year-old Aboriginal woman from northwestern Ontario, grew up in a difficult home and often felt alone and isolated. Feeling like she had nowhere to turn, Andrea turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age.

When Andrea’s mother took her to Thunder Bay Friendship Centre, Andrea realized that she was not alone. She met a counsellor, Sandra Kakeeway, who forever changed her life. Grateful for the help given to her during her time of need, Andrea later made the decision to help other people who were facing similar challenges to the ones she once faced. Andrea’s quality of life completely changed because of friendship centres.

Honourable senators, Andrea’s story shows how friendship centres can change the life of those in need. Friendship centres play a pivotal role in Canadian society. They act as engineers of social change and innovation, as sources of community strength, and as facilitators of community planning and development. Please join me in saluting the work of friendship centres.