The Friendship Centre Movement (FCM) is the country’s most significant off-reserve Indigenous service delivery infrastructure. Friendship Centres are not-for-profit and charity corporations that are mandated to serve the needs of Urban Indigenous People by providing culturally appropriate services in Urban communities. Friendship Centres are governed by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of elected members. They are membership driven organizations in Urban communities that serve all Urban Indigenous People, regardless of status. Every Friendship Centre is managed independently from the OFIFC and offers supportive programs and services that are needed in their community; as well as providing a place of acceptance and well-being for Indigenous peoples. As every Friendship Centre is located in a different geographical location, the needs of each community differ as well. The dynamic staff and volunteers from each Friendship Centre provide up to as many as 20 programs for Urban Indigenous people, with services covering the full spectrum of the life cycle.
Locally, in the late 1960’s, a group of community members from both on-reserve and off-reserve worked together forming a working committee with a vision that an infrastructure be presented to Urban Indigenous people. This vision came from the realization that there was a growing need of Indigenous people who were migrating from remote First Nations to Sault Ste. Marie as well as on a province-wide level.
Today 85% of Indigenous people in Ontario live (off-reserve) in urban cities seeking a better lifestyle, seeking to fulfill their education and/or looking for employment. There are 30 member “Friendship Centres” in Ontario – with Friendship Centres being the largest off-reserve service delivery model ensuring a safe and welcoming environment.
The IFCSSM initially began servicing youth and justice. Service programming began with a small youth program and a Court worker program assisting adults who came into conflict with the law. Today the IFCSSM provides over 25 service programs from a prenatal program to a program helping our Elders/Seniors; continuing to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people in the urban community of Sault Ste. Marie.
Over the years of operation, the IFCSSM has positively assisted with altering the lives of the Urban Indigenous people in many areas. Be it prenatal nutrition, education on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, healthy babies and children, positive youth development, education accomplishment, employment and skills development, justice, homelessness, mental health, well-being of our Elders and professional health services.
There are at least twenty-five IFCSSM staff professionally trained to carry out their program goals and objectives to service the people in the community. Our N’Minoeyaa Health Centre services approximately 4,500 Urban Indigenous People annually. On a provincial scale there are over 500 Friendship Centre staff who provide services in 28 Centres throughout Ontario.
The Indigenous Friendship Centre in Sault Ste. Marie is a principal nucleus for hundreds of Urban Indigenous People whose populace is the fastest growing traditional inhabitants who are partaking in Canada’s largest province by actually recapturing their culture, traditions, dignity and pride.