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Press Release


The Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres concerned by NDP announcement of “Drop-In Centres”

[Winnipeg, August 13th, 2023] – The Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres (MAFC) is concerned about the announcement by the NDP on August 11th of three “drop-in Centres for Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.”  While we applaud the commitment to provide $9 million for this important issue, we were surprised that a Party that has a serious chance to form Government made such an announcement without significant consultation. Unfortunately, details of the announcement and the manner of delivery are sparse, but it appears to ignore Friendship Centres and create a new bureaucracy.

MAFC is particularly disappointed because when it formed Government, the NDP, failed to increase funding at any time during their term for Manitoba’s Friendship Centres despite repeated requests from Friendship Centres for the needs of urban Indigenous peoples in Manitoba. In particular, the Friendship Centres received no increases for its programming, including necessary drop-in services, throughout that time. As importantly, there are already Friendship Centres in each of the communities named.

David Gray, President of MAFC, said, “We sincerely hope that the failure to include us is simply an oversight.  We have had great meetings with the NDP’s Indigenous Affairs critic, Hon. Ian Bushie, in which a promise was made not to fractionalize funding and to make up for the 23 years of neglect Centres have faced. We look forward to working with whoever forms Government after October 3rd to improve programming for urban Indigenous people.”

Manitoba’s (and Canada’s) Friendship Centres have taken a lead in MMIWG issues, and most are the hosts for events on “Orange Shirt Day” and provide the types of services described in the announcement. Our Friendship Centres have added programming with limited resources to address the issues as best it can without funding. Yet that work seems not to be recognized.  Moreover, Friendship Centres started as, and continue to be, the primary and most recognizable place in which Indigenous people have a safe place to be at home in urban settings.

Details of the program were not released, but MAFC is concerned this may be a continuation of a trend to fragmenting funding. The Friendship Centres in all the communities named are led by Indigenous women as Executive Directors. Each has the internal structure and capacity to undertake this important work. Creating new organizations is not a healthy alternative.

Brandon Friendship Centre and Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre (Thompson) are recognized as among the strongest Friendship Centres in Canada and have been lauded as structure models for urban Indigenous status-blind service delivery. Each is routinely approached by Governments to lead new initiatives because of their success in delivery.

Winnipeg is the home of the first Friendship Centre. It is rebuilding and has acquired land and funding to start an ambitious program at 45 Robinson.  But neither the current government nor the NDP have committed provincial funds to move that forward. Construction of a Winnipeg Indigenous Friendship Centre should be a priority for every Party in addressing the needs of Urban Indigenous People in this Province.

The MAFC represents the 11 Friendship Centres across Manitoba. Each Friendship Centre is a community-controlled, status-blind Indigenous organization providing a safe and welcoming space for Indigenous people living in urban areas. The Friendship Centres are the oldest and most significant provincial-wide network of community hubs offering urban Indigenous people programs, services, and support. Centres provide a wide range of services and programs, including addressing racism, counselling and advocacy services, delivery of programming for Governments, and promoting health, wellness, and cultural identity.

During the pandemic, the Provincial Government recognized Friendship Centres as pivotal support in facing the crises for urban Indigenous people across Manitoba. Our reports to Government show that we provided 460,113 discreet points of service in fiscal 2021-22 to Urban communities. In an election-year the failure to consider the ability to address the needs of Indigenous people through a stable, well-managed network with more than 60 years of history must be explained by a person who wishes to be Premier.

Taking action is especially important in an era when Government promises to reverse harmful policies and systemic racism to address reconciliation. 

Mr. Gray continued, “…we are encouraged to see that one party has stepped up to recognize the need for significant funding adjustments for urban issues.  This is good news, and we think that any steps are positive.  We hope other parties will likewise commit to funding for the issues faced by urban Indigenous People.  But we need to have real involvement by Friendship Centres, the only truly Province-wide status-blind Indigenous service delivery organization.”

Judy Mayer, President of The Pas Friendship Centre, commented, The issue raised by this announcement is NOT restricted to 3 Cities.  The programming needs to be accessible in every urban setting. The funding for these three Centres is 4 times the funding Manitoba currently provides (and provided under the last NDP Government) for all 11 Friendship Centres in Manitoba. The Pas has a significant issue with Murdered and Missing Women and Girls, but we seem to be forgotten in this announcement, despite being a long-standing NDP constituency.”

MAFC believes that the issue of MMIWGS2S+ affects every part of Manitoba. This needs significant support, and we welcome the commitment of funds.  We are concerned that eradicating the causes of this ongoing challenge and these tragedies cannot be easily solved by centralizing services.

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For more information, contact:

David Gray, President of MAFC


Phone: (204) 281-7257

Kristina Colmer, Policy Analyst and Researcher of MAFC


Phone : (204) 430-4293