The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) represents the interests of 29 Indigenous Friendship Centres across Ontario. Census 2021 statistics indicate that most Indigenous people reside in urban and rural communities. Our communities’ demographics are younger than the mainstream Canadian population and our communities are growing. In Ontario, 88% of Indigenous people live off-reserve in towns, cities, and rural areas.
Friendship Centres play a critical role in creating opportunities for urban Indigenous people to exercise their rights to access culturally relevant programs and services that meet their needs where they live, through dedicated urban Indigenous community spaces. Underlining the tie between the work and role of Friendship Centres and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Declaration sets out that Indigenous people have a right to organize “themselves for political, economic, social and cultural enhancement and to bring to an end all forms of discrimination and oppression wherever they occur”
Articles 3, 5, 20, 21, and 23 of the UNDRIP outline the rights of Indigenous people to the development, administration and oversight of our own institutions and priorities. Indigenous Friendship Centres were formed as a grassroots response to decolonization and remain direct catalysts of Indigenous people’s self-determination in the areas of education, culture, justice, housing, health, and healing. Friendship Centres have a proven and extensive track record in managing physical and social infrastructure and in contributing to the modern reconciliation era as decolonial spaces where relationships between Indigenous communities and settlers are made real in cities and towns.
In a difficult economic climate, Budget 2023 presents an opportunity for the federal government to leverage the expertise of Friendship Centres to make immediate impacts on reconciliation priorities. With this aim, we respectfully advance the following Budget 2023 recommendations:
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) recommends the following Budget 2023 investments:
1. The annualization of dedicated federal funding to support the core operations and capacity development of Indigenous Friendship Centres. Investments will stabilize essential service delivery and propel the Friendship Centre Movement forward.
2. The effective implementation of an Indigenous-led Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy announced in Budget 2022. The Strategy must be implemented immediately and funded to adequately respond to the housing crisis experienced across our communities.
3. Long-term, stabilized funding supports for the OFIFC’s Urban Indigenous Homeward Bound program as a MMIWG2S+ National Action Plan direct response.
4. Facilitate the advancement of urban Indigenous-led child care spaces within the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care System that meets the proportionate need in our growing communities.
5. The establishment of an annualized, flexible federal funding source for Indigenous Youth Initiatives in Friendship Centres to support young people to thrive in their communities.