Skip to content

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 18 - Evidence, April 30, 2002

OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:00 a.m. to examine access, provision and delivery of services, policy and jurisdictional issues, employment and education, access to economic opportunities, youth participation and empowerment, and other related matters.

Senator Thelma J. Chalifoux (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: I am happy to have you visit us today to give us your perceptions of the issues facing urban Aboriginal people. We are focusing on youth particularly today.

As an organizer of friendship centres, I am really pleased to see you here.

Ms Marie Whattam, Vice-President, National Association of Friendship Centres: On behalf of the National Association of Friendship Centres, we would like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for the opportunity to make a presentation on issues affecting urban Aboriginal youth. Our presentation will focus on providing the committee with an overview of the friendship centre movement, the NAFC and the Aboriginal Youth Council, NAFC national programs that focus on prevention, intervention and development, and next steps and recommendations. We will also be providing additional resource material, including NAFC-AYC packages, Urban MultiPurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres magazines and Aboriginal youth statistics.

The concept of the friendship centre originated in the mid-1950s. A noticeable number of Aboriginal people were moving into the larger urban areas of Canada, primarily to seek an improved quality of life. In an effort to address the needs expressed by their communities, concerned individuals began to push for the establishment of specialized agencies. These agencies would provide referrals and offer counselling on matters of employment, housing, education, health and liaison with community organizations.

In their early development, friendship centres were dependent to a large degree on individual volunteers and their ability to raise operating funds through various fund-raising events, private donations and small grants from foundations and provincial and federal governments. Centres also began to evolve from the provision of referrals to front-line delivery of social services.

In 1972, the Government of Canada formally recognized the viability of friendship centres in Canada by implementing the Migrating Native Peoples Program. By the end of 1972, the number of friendship centres had grown to 43 across the country. That year also saw the establishment of a national office, the NAFC.

After evaluating the program in 1976, the Canadian government realized the vital role that friendship centres played in their communities. In 1983, the NAFC and the Department of the Secretary of State successfully negotiated the evolution of the program to an enriched Native Friendship Centre Program. This new five-year program formally recognized friendship centres as legitimate urban native institutions responding to the needs of native people.

The end of 1983 saw more growth within the movement, with 37 new centres having been established, bringing the total to 80 core funded centres across Canada. In 1988, the Native Friendship Centre Program became the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program, through which permanent funding was secured from the government. On March 29, 1996, the administration of the AFCP was officially transferred to the NAFC.

Currently, there are 117 friendship centres across the country, all providing programs for urban Aboriginal people, particularly urban Aboriginal youth. The National Association of Friendship Centres is a non-profit organization governed by a voluntary board of directors that represents the concerns of friendship centres and provincial and territorial centre associations across Canada.

The primary objectives of the NAFC are to act as an essential unifying body for the friendship centre movement, to promote and advocate the concerns of Aboriginal peoples and to represent the needs of local friendship centres across the country to the federal government and to the public in general.

Throughout the past two decades, the friendship centre movement has seen the development of a national youth movement, which formally began in July 1985 with a first National Friendship Centre Youth Conference at the NAFC's 14th annual general meeting. The youth movement has grown immensely over the past seven years. Its strength can be attributed to the participation of youth within local friendship centres and their respective regions.

More and more friendship centres are electing youth representatives to their board of directors and have established youth councils and groups. Provincial and territorial associations are hosting provincial youth forums and have voting youth representatives on their boards and provincial/territorial youth councils.

The NAFC established a voting youth representative to the NAFC board of directors. A youth is a member on the NAFC executive committee.

Youth possess one-third of the total votes at our AGM. National youth forums have been occurring annually, and government programming continues to focus on youth.

The NAFC has continually supported the inclusion of urban Aboriginal youth within all aspects of the association. In July 1994, at the association's 23rd AGM, the definite and distinct role young people play in the movement was recognized with the passing of a resolution stating that regularly scheduled meetings with youth would take place. Such meetings were to further the aims of the NAFC youth, encourage them to stay actively involved in the friendship centre movement, and support them in all of their endeavours.

As a result of this resolution and a subsequent youth board meeting, the NAFC Aboriginal Youth Council was established in September 1994.

The AYC defines youth as people between the ages of 14 and 24 years of age and recognizes their membership as being constituted of youth and anyone having an interest in youth issues. The council members must meet the age requirements and must be members in good standing of a local friendship centre.

The mission of the AYC is to create positive change for friendship centre youth through inclusion, empowerment and culture, by increasing communication, training and development opportunities, youth involvement, both internally and externally, in the friendship centre movement and facilitating the development of youth leaders. Positive change is also created by providing awareness on issues facing urban Aboriginal youth and encouraging and supporting their ongoing spiritual, emotional and physical development while preserving and promoting our culture and heritage.

The AYC conducts quarterly board meetings, which may include conference calls, to discuss numerous issues related to urban Aboriginal youth within the friendship centre movement. The AYC and their membership meet annually at the national youth forum, which is held three days prior to the NAFC's AGM. The members conduct their business within the three days, including elections.

At the national youth forums, youth delegates in attendance, representing friendship centres from across the country, determine priorities and develop action plans for the AYC and the NAFC to undertake. Through the Aboriginal Youth Council, the NAFC ensures that priorities determined at each youth forum and through the AYC quarterly meetings are taken into consideration for all national programming and development within funding parameters and national policy issues. Urban Aboriginal youth have had direct input into all national programming of the NAFC, particularly the urban Aboriginal youth programs.

Since its inception, the Aboriginal Youth Council has established a stronger link with both the national association's board of directors and the national office. The AYC has also established linkages with national projects, including youth peer counselling, Aboriginal employment services networks, sacred plants, sacred ways, National Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy, race relations, Young Canada Works for Urban Aboriginal Youth, the Aboriginal Strategic Initiative, the Youth Intervenor Initiative, the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre Initiative, and the youth leader development initiative.

In addition, partnerships have been formed with other youth groups, non-Aboriginal organizations, national voluntary organizations, national serving agencies and government departments, other national Aboriginal organizations and their respective youth bodies, and, on the international front, the World Conference against Racism process.

As you are aware, urban Aboriginal youth face many challenges, including racism, teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, retention in the education system, et cetera.

You have heard many presentations on the issues that affect urban Aboriginal youth, with statistics that paint a bleak picture. The NAFC's extensive experience with program administration and consultation with urban Aboriginal youth have enabled us to develop a strategy for program development and delivery that addresses their needs. The strategy focuses on prevention, including awareness programs, engagement of youth in ongoing dialogue and provision of culturally and socially relevant activities.

Intervention includes the implementation of programs and activities that address the cultural and social needs of urban Aboriginal youth in a holistic manner. Empowerment of urban Aboriginal youth can be achieved through the development of leadership skills and by creating positive role models for Aboriginal peoples.

Ms Jaime Koebel, President, Aboriginal Youth Council, National Association of Friendship Centres: The Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, UMAYC, initiative is a five-year initiative from 1998 to 2003. It was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and designed to provide urban Aboriginal youth with a wide range of programs, services and activities that are locally controlled and designed in conjunction with Aboriginal youth. These programs, services and activities are structured in a manner that empowers Aboriginal youth to address the challenges they face and determine their own future with a sense of pride and in a culturally relevant environment.

The primary goal of the UMAYC initiative is to create a network of urban Aboriginal youth centres to support and assist Aboriginal youth in enhancing their economic, social and personal prospects. In 1999 and 2000, a NAFC- UMAYC committee approved 54 projects. In 2000 and 2001, the number of projects increased to 73 across Canada. For the 2001-02 fiscal year, 76 projects were implemented.

Throughout the duration of the UMAYC initiative, urban Aboriginal youth continue to play a significant role. You will find in the information kit that the UMAYC national magazine highlights regional best practices. The current priority of the national UMAYC committee is to ensure the renewal of the UMAYC initiative beyond March 31st, 2003.

The Young Canada Works for Urban Aboriginal Youth, YCW-UAY, is one of six components under Young Canada Works funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The YCW-UAY is in its sixth year of administration. It provides summer employment opportunities for urban Aboriginal youth, either students or unemployed youth between the ages of 16 and 24, within friendship centres across Canada. The youth employed through the YCW-UAY assist in the delivery of programs to the community, primarily focused on youth-related activities such as recreation, special events, drop-in centres, outreach programs and peer counselling.

The Youth Intervenor Initiative, funded through Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC, is currently in its seventh year of operation. It is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Aboriginal Youth Council, distributing information on national youth initiatives to the membership, and promoting HRDC youth initiatives within the friendship centre movement. An additional responsibility of the youth intervenor is to represent the NAFC and UMAYC on the Federal/Provincial/Territorial/Aboriginal Youth Strategy working group.

The National Aboriginal Youth Strategy initiative is to guide governments in the design and delivery of Aboriginal youth services. The strategy recognizes the key role that Aboriginal communities and organizations play in the design and delivery of such programs. The FPTA's working group is currently developing a national Aboriginal organizations youth committee to strengthen the dialogue with Aboriginal youth across the country. Aboriginal youth issues will be at the forefront of the upcoming FPTA leaders and ministers meeting in 2002 in Iqaluit.

The initiative provides friendship centres with an opportunity to enhance their capacity to engage young people in the life and activities of the friendship centre and the friendship centre movement by encouraging the development, enhancement and integration of new and existing practices of working with and for young people. The Youth Leadership Development Initiative, YLDI, provides an opportunity for friendship centres to take advantage of innovative ideas developed by involved youth.

The NAFC will continue to develop and pursue resources for programs based on urban Aboriginal youth consultation. The programs that the NAFC is currently developing will focus on prevention by providing awareness programs and activities targeting younger Aboriginal youth; and on intervention through its involvement in the National Community Victimization Project, which will examine urban Aboriginal youth crime, victimization and the impacts on the community. The research will be the basis for the development of national work plans in the area of justice, health and human resources, and in which urban Aboriginal youth issues will be a central focus. It is anticipated that comprehensive work plans will be tabled at the association's upcoming AGM in July 2002 in Edmonton.

The NAFC will also focus on development. It is currently researching funding resources to continue the existing YLDI program and to develop and implement an Aboriginal youth exchange program to further develop urban Aboriginal youth leaders in our communities.

There are four recommendations: that the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, UMAYC, initiative be renewed for an additional five years to build upon its success to date; that the NAFC be a full member on the FPTA steering committee to ensure that the friendship centre movement is given a voice at the highest level of government; that stable funding be secured over an extended period of time — three- to five-year commitments — for existing and future programs targeted at urban Aboriginal youth; that the NAFC be accorded full partner status in the Aboriginal Human Resource Development Strategy for capacity building, labour market programs, child care, youth and the disabled; and that this groundbreaking research partnership be extended to other provinces and cities. We acknowledge the support of the federal government in funding the National Community Victimization Project.

In conclusion, friendship centres will continue to provide programs specific to urban Aboriginal youth for as long the centres exist. However, increased funding can only complement existing programs and the current work, enabling friendship centres to improve the quality of life for urban Aboriginal youth.

The Chairman: Thank you. The presentation was enlightening and it has been interesting to learn more about the friendship movement.

Senator Johnson: I am from Winnipeg, where we have had friendship centres for years.

In 1996, the report of the Royal Commission On Aboriginal Peoples stated that friendship centres have generally been more successful than other Aboriginal institutions in meeting the needs of Aboriginal people in urban areas. The commission also found that not only have their programs helped Aboriginal people to maintain their cultural identity and group solidarity, but also they are often the only major voluntary association available to Aboriginal people to fulfil their social, recreational and cultural development needs.

Can you tell me what makes the friendship centres better suited than other organizations to meet the needs of our Aboriginal people in urban areas?

Ms Whattam: I will use myself as an example, because I was in the friendship centre movement. I was adopted out of my community and raised in Ottawa with a non-Aboriginal family. I had no understanding of my culture or where I came from. I knew only that I was born in Manitoba. I began working for a friendship centre when I was a youth, and now I like to call myself an ``elder,'' although I am just kidding. The friendship centre is a grassroots organization that is run by many individuals dedicated to Aboriginal people. I learned about the culture, traditions and how to become proud of where I come from.

It was most important for me to return to the movement about seven years ago and give back to the community. I know there are many people who still depend on friendship centres for essential and basic programs and services, from the very young to seniors. Aboriginal people with disabilities, and many others in the community, depend on our programming.

Senator Johnson: If I might continue in this vein, I think your personal experience is important and relevant. I know other people who have had similar experiences.

To what extent can non-Aboriginal service agencies and organizations meet the needs of the urban Aboriginal populations? What roles can they, or should they, play? It is often difficult for these organizations to know. Can you enlighten us?

Ms Whattam: The non-Aboriginal organizations help people with basic needs. When you consider on-reserve people coming to the city for the first time, you realize that they know nothing about housing, schooling and social services in urban centres.

Friendship centres often act as referral agencies to these organizations. They are stepping-stones. It is nice to see a reflection of yourself when you come into a big place and do not know anyone, and to be referred to somewhere friendly, a non-Aboriginal service organization with which we have developed those relationships and partnered with them to help provide essential services.

Senator Johnson: How important is culturally appropriate programming, and to what extent is it now available in urban areas? I have some idea of Winnipeg and the West, but I am not sure about the rest of the country.

Ms Whattam: Culturally appropriate programming is so important in the context of mainstream education and preschool programs. Health Canada's Aboriginal Head Start program is a good example. I did not have that. I went into kindergarten and I did not know anything about Aboriginal culture. If I had been four years old a couple of years ago, I would have gone into a Head Start program, where you learn the culture, traditions, your language, and you associate with other children of your background. When you move into mainstream education, you know that other people are supporting you and you can believe in Aboriginal pride when there are not too many people who look like you in the room. That is really important.

Senator Christensen: I had the privilege of being on the board of directors of our friendship centre in the Yukon when it first started over 30 years ago. What do you see as some of the principal gaps in the program when trying to meet the needs of urban youth in particular? One thing I see in friendship centres is that bureaucracy starts taking over. What has been your experience?

Ms Whattam: Right now, with the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, we are addressing that 16- to 24- year-old age group. There is a gap in terms of those 12 to 16 or younger. We need to provide more programming and services to these students before and after school, such as breakfast programs, tutoring, and even high-end programs such as culture, sports, arts, drama and music. It would be wonderful to be able to offer an Aboriginal music program to youth.

Senator Christensen: Are you familiar with the program across the country?

Ms Whattam: Yes.

Senator Christensen: Is more weight given to dealing with youth, or is it more on the mid-age and older?

Ms Whattam: It is mostly on youth. There are the pre- and post-natal programs for babies and young mothers. We have a family support program that deals with stay-at-home mothers. We have people who can provide childcare.

Senator Christensen: Is it true that there was a problem with funding and opening new centres?

Ms Whattam: Yes. Canadian Heritage now provides core funding to 117 centres. It is not enough, however, for new and developing centres. Ideally, we would like to have a friendship centre in all urban communities. It is just not possible.

Senator Pearson: Did you go to Durban?

Ms Koebel: No. I had two babies, so I was not able to attend. I went the year before, and we did send someone from our youth council.

Senator Pearson: What the press reported and the experience of young people was not necessarily the same thing. Did he or she have an interesting time? Was it a good experience?

Ms Koebel: Jamie Lewis, the secretary of the Aboriginal Youth Council, went and she said it was phenomenal for her because she had not travelled anywhere internationally. She said the information I provided was enough for her to understand what was taking place. It was a grand experience for her. She had a stop in New York on the way home and was there for the unfortunate events of September 11. That was a big downside, and no one could have foreseen that. Otherwise, the experience was phenomenal for her.

Senator Pearson: It is important for people to recognize that that conference was not a total disaster. There was much that was significant, particularly in the area of discrimination.

You recommend that funding for the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres Initiative be extended. Can you provide us with a few examples of things that have worked well so we can build a case?

Ms Koebel: I have been on the Aboriginal Youth Council for about seven years. I began when I was 12 years old, when there was limited programming for youth. Now with UMAYC, one of my goals is to have a youth council in every friendship centre across Canada. With the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, we have been able to implement not only youth councils within individual friendship centres, but also provincial youth councils. It mirrors the structure already in place. It facilitates the growth of Aboriginal youth.

One example is a cultural program in British Columbia. They started with teachings from elders, and they were going to carve a canoe out of a big tree. It was a long process, and then they actually took the canoe and went camping with the elders for a month or so. It was a cultural experience that probably would not have taken place without the program.

There are numerous programs across the country such as that. They were able to start a youth council in my hometown of Lac La Biche, Alberta. Those are just two small examples out of 117 friendship centres.

Senator Pearson: However, it has generated more leadership among young people, too.

Ms Koebel: Yes.

Senator Pearson: I brought up the Durban conference in the context of reaching out to make connections to other parts of the world and to other indigenous cultures and so on.

Ms Koebel: That is how I got started on the international aspect. That was amazing for me, to see other indigenous people. Living in Canada, I took for granted that we were the only Aboriginal people in the world. Then when you meet other indigenous people, your whole experience of being an Aboriginal person changes in so many ways. You see the differences within indigenous nations around the world.

Senator Hubley: Ms Koebel, I will ask you to expand further on some of your projects. There has been an increase, which is wonderful to see. In 1999-00, 54 projects were approved. It increased to 73 in 2000-01 and to 76 in 2001-02.

Would you give us examples of some of those projects?

Has the type of project changed over the years? Do you see the youth looking for a different type of project?

Ms Koebel: There is still a cultural aspect, but we have seen more of an increase structure-wise, with the youth councils developing.

At the beginning, there were many youth drop-in centres. However, they were there for community support and not as well structured as a youth council is today.

Ms Whattam: The Odawa Native Friendship Centre is an Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres initiative. I have seen increased participation of Aboriginal youth at the friendship centre through that program. People never used the centre because there was nothing for them. They could come and throw a basketball around, but there was no cultural component. I have seen the pride develop in these Aboriginal youth as they participate in drug-free and alcohol-free programming.

These programs keep the youth off the street, out of the bars and out of trouble. They gain a sense of self-esteem because they are learning about their culture. Many of them are not familiar with their backgrounds. Many of them were adopted, raised in foster homes or came from troubled backgrounds. We are giving them a sense of autonomy and building their social skills to either run a program or get involved with other organizations in town. It is really exciting.

I like to see the youth when they are drumming, singing and happy and are proud of who they are and where they come from. That is a sign that we are doing the right thing. They can walk around town with their heads held high because they are doing good things.

As honourable senators are aware, this program expires next March. We are approaching Canadian Heritage to ensure that the program is renewed, with increased funding. It would be wonderful if any of you could help with that.

Ms Koebel: My first annual general meeting was in Brandon, Manitoba. There were perhaps 30 youth at our youth forum. We had to scrounge for people to run for president and secretary or to be the provincial youth representative. Thanks in large part to the UMAYC program, people are now actually putting their names in ahead of time to run for a certain position. Participation at our youth forums has grown to over 100 youth. This year, we hope it will be larger.

The quality of young people entering the friendship centre movement has amazed me. There has been an impressive evolution to what we will see this year since I have been with the movement.

The Chairman: Many years ago, when the movement was just beginning, there was a mission statement that the friendship centres were to bridge the gap between the non-Aboriginal and the Aboriginal people. At that time, many non-Aboriginal people wanted to participate. Is that mission still in existence? Are you still bridging that gap between the non-Aboriginal and the Aboriginal people to create a better understanding of our culture within mainstream society?

Ms Whattam: Basically, our mission statement is to improve the quality of life for urban Aboriginal people. It is a partnership, not only with Aboriginal people in the community, but also the non-Aboriginal people.

I have always said that the best advocates for Aboriginal people are non-Aboriginal people. Our powwows and social activities, including our socials at the friendship centres, help to bridge the culture gap. Non-Aboriginal people come out to our powwows and socials. They love the food and the music. They love to see the regalia and the dancers and to hear the drumming. They love to learn about the culture, the smudging, the prayers and the traditional knowledge. This process is a two-way street. Many non-Aboriginal people support us at our meetings. They are advocates for us at all levels of government, in private organizations and other places. We always have people who have heard about friendship centres and know the good work we do.

Ms Koebel: On a personal note, my mother is non-native. She always had questions on how to raise me as an Aboriginal child. My step-father was non-Aboriginal as well. My mother began to volunteer at the friendship centre in Lac la Biche. She asked if I wanted to go as well. From the age of 12, I went. Through the friendship centre, we were able to build a bridge in our personal relationship while I was able to build a relationship with my culture. My mother knew that she was not able to give me all the answers, and so the friendship centre did that for me.

I realized that once I experienced that in my local community, I could go almost anywhere in Canada and find a friendship centre.

When I went to university in Edmonton, I went to the friendship centre there. I will be attending school in Ottawa, and there is a friendship centre here.

The Chairman: We spoke about culture. As we know, there are many different nations of Aboriginal people in this country. I am Metis and from Alberta. I find that the Metis often feel alienated from the friendship centres because the focus is on the powwow; it is not on our culture and history.

How do you deal with that here? You have the Six Nations, the Inuit and so on, throughout Canada. How is the National Association of Friendship Centres addressing this issue?

Ms Whattam: The friendship centre movement is inclusive of all three groups: First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Everyone is welcome.

If we have a social or any kind of gathering, we always try to ensure that there is representation from all three groups. We try not to focus only on First Nations. We try to include the Metis culture. Sometimes we will have a celebration or an activity that focuses on Inuit people. Many of their cultural traditions are not well known either.

The National Association of Friendship Centres is a non-political organization; we are non-partisan. We try to be inclusive of all three groups.

The Chairman: I was quite impressed when I went to the Vancouver friendship centre during the pre-study for this action plan for change. They have one night for the Haida, another for the Salish and another for the Metis. That is very exciting. They told us that as many as 200 to 400 people attend these celebrations. They celebrate each nationality on a separate evening and it is a wonderful experience.

I have been involved with the friendship centre in Calgary since the 1960s, when friendship centres were first starting up. At that time, they were the focal point in the community. In today's much larger cities, many people cannot access the friendship centres.

In your deliberations or projections, are you looking at creating some sort of better outreach so that the people coming to the city really know where you are and how to access you? Many of them do not even have money for bus fare.

Ms Whattam: I can speak from the experience here in Ottawa. Many new Aboriginal organizations are starting up. There is the Aboriginal Women's Support Centre, a shelter for Aboriginal women and an Aboriginal health centre. The friendship centre is often a sponsor of these new organizations. It is like we grandfather them or give birth to them or support them. I think this happens across the country. There is a partnership with other organizations. Often, you find the same board members in these organizations. It is a true sense of community.

On your earlier question about Aboriginal representation within the governing structures of the organizations, we often have First Nation, Metis and Inuit representatives on those boards. That also ensures inclusivity.

The Chairman: What are the issues facing the friendship centres today in the area of funding and the gaps that you see that this action plan for change could recommend upon to give you the ammunition to negotiate?

Ms Whattam: As you know, we have had Aboriginal friendship centre program funding from Canadian Heritage for the last five years, and it has not increased. In fact, we experienced a decrease at some point in the past. At the local level, friendship centres have experienced increasing operating costs with declining program funding, and they are struggling.

At one point, the core funding was based on person-years. For example, the friendship centre here in Ottawa is based on three person-years at about $30,000 a year. We get approximately $114,000 from Canadian Heritage to run a friendship centre that has about a $2-million budget. It is not adequate. We are almost always in a deficit at the end of the fiscal year and depend on outside program administration fees and immense fundraising efforts to try to balance the budget.

Increase core funding. Increase program funding to all the programs in all provinces and territories. We need the support.

Senator Pearson: Partly picking up on Senator Chalifoux's comments, Ms Whattam is interested in the relationship with the municipality. I think we are seeing that urban centres in Canada are becoming more and more important, yet they are stuck in constitutional arrangements in which they are dependent on the provinces for their funding. In provinces like Ontario, there is more and more downloading to municipalities without either the funding necessary to go with it or the taxing capacity.

I will take Ottawa as an example because that is what you can describe for me. Under the reorganization, is there a particular liaison person with the municipality? Is there a sector of the municipality of Ottawa, or other municipalities, for the support of the Aboriginal population?

Ms Whattam: Friendship centres in whatever city they are located often have a very good working relationship with the municipal government. We have had the mayor over to our friendship centre here in Ottawa. They have different programs for the different age groups in the city — babies, children, or seniors. All the program managers at the friendship centres have ongoing relationships with those representatives. Yes, it is a good relationship.

Senator Pearson: Has that happened because you established those relationships? Is there anything that would improve them? I do not just mean in Ottawa, but any centre. We are looking for practical suggestions for things that we could recommend.

Ms Whattam: I would encourage the municipalities to improve Aboriginal representation within their committee structures. I know they do put out calls for volunteers to sit on the committees, and I have had those calls. The city has called me, and I said, ``I am sorry, but I am on too many committees. I cannot sit on anything else, but I will definitely refer people.'' That would be a definite recommendation.

Senator Pearson: On the funding side, do you get any core money from the municipality?

Ms Whattam: We apply for grants and program funding through the city. A friendship centre would like to get a 10 per cent administration fee to run a program through the city. Often, the administration fee is 1 or 2 per cent, and it is not adequate.

Senator Pearson: These issues are powerful, because generally speaking, you deal with a population that cannot pay a service fee, so you cannot depend on that kind of income.

What about your relationship with businesses and so on when you are doing fundraising?

Ms Whattam: The Aboriginal businesses sponsor activities. We have to do that constantly. We have to always be out there, fundraising and approaching Aboriginal businesses, especially here in town, for corporate dollars to support us.

Senator Pearson: I am looking at this for cities in general. Do you become a focus for the kinds of problems for which you can provide support, for example, a family with a disabled child? It sounds to me like you do. This is exciting. You can rally support around an individual who is having difficulties of that sort and needs someone to visit on a regular basis. Does that happen?

Ms Whattam: Yes, we have family support workers, and also for Aboriginal people with disabilities. We have visitors, including lifelong care visitors for those with chronic illnesses. We take people to their pre- and post-natal appointments, and provide all that kind of care.

Senator Pearson: Are these people volunteers, are they paid, or is it a combination?

Ms Whattam: It is paid staff and volunteers.


Senator Gill: I would imagine you provide a range of services such as employment assistance, information about available services and so forth to those who visit your centre. Most likely some of your clients are the growing number of persons who are more or less homeless who live in large cities.

Do you make any demands of the people you help? Must they make some kind of personal commitment? Must they do certain things to help themselves and support your centre? Are they given certain responsibilities?


Ms Whattam: I am thinking in terms of providing any kind of employment and referral services for those types of people. Unemployed people will come to the friendship centre. They do not know anything about how to look for a job.

We will provide resumé writing training and referrals to employers. If they need a place to live, we will assist them with housing.

With regard to technical skills, various friendship centres have computer training programs. They may provide upgrading for people to get their high school diplomas. Through the employment and referral training programs, they may provide funding for various courses, such as truck driver training. This applies to people who are not able to get funding from their band.


Senator Gill: Do you expect anything in return from the people who receive your help?


Ms Whattam: No. Our expectation is that they will say good things about us because we have helped them, and that perhaps once they are set up, they will volunteer with us, perhaps even join our governing structures.

Part of the recovery process for people in culturally appropriate drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs is to help out at social activities through the friendship centre, be it a powwow, children's programming or whatever. That rebuilds pride in their heritage and gives them the opportunity to give something back. In our tradition, we like to give gifts and get something back.


Senator Gill: Do you follow up on individual cases to see if the situation of people who have asked for your help has improved at all?


Ms Whattam: We help these people get re-established. When they come to the city, we get them started with their education or training. Sometimes they do return to their community and are happy there, but I have heard from many people at many levels that they come back to the friendship centres to thank them.

Matthew Coon Come is a big advocate of the friendship centre movement. He has told us many times that if it had not been for the friendship centre, he does not know where he would have ended up. Many leaders in our Aboriginal communities have been helped greatly by friendship centres.


Senator Gill: Does each friendship centre receive a certain amount allocated over a five year period and subsequently set its own priorities, or does the full allocation go to the Association of Friendship Centres which then distributes the money?


Ms Whattam: The allocation to each centre is determined through set criteria through the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program. We have a contribution agreement with Canadian Heritage that contains various criteria, one of which is geography. You may get a little more in the North because things are more expensive there. Other criteria are the size of the friendship centre and the population base of Aboriginal people in the area.

There is currently no friendship centre in Prince Edward Island. There are Aboriginal people there and they would really like to have one.


Senator Gill: I am not as concerned about the geographic distribution as I am about the type of services you want to offer to your clients.


Do you decide that yourself?

Ms Whattam: No. That is a grassroots issue. The friendship centre determines that in consultation with its membership. Membership can range from 300 people to 2,000. They establish their priorities at their annual meetings. They determine the needs in consultation with their community members, be they programs for babies, youth, seniors or disabled people. It is up to each community.

Senator Johnson: The number of Aboriginal youth in cities is increasing. Winnipeg is a good example. Our major concern there is the 2,000 young people involved in gangs — the Indian Posse, Deuce, and, increasingly, others.

Do those youth have any involvement with you? Is there any outreach to them, or are they alienated from you? Alternatively, do they have other peers in the community?

Ms Whattam: Involvement in gangs is an issue for urban Aboriginal youth. With adequate funding, we could do more for these people. Currently, friendship centres can only deal with day-to-day issues. It is like putting out fires. We would need more resources to address the issue of Aboriginal gangs.

I am not familiar with the situation in Winnipeg, but the problem exists in all large urban centres.

Senator Johnson: Where are we failing these youth that they are finding a home within these gangs?

I have spoken to Wayne Helgason, who was one of the originators of the friendship centre movement. We are very concerned because we just cannot seem to connect with them.

Could us give any suggestions for facilitating communication with these people? These groups are very isolated.

I do not think they are integrating anywhere else. I do not know if most of them are even going to school or partaking in programs. For the most part, they have left their families, too.

Ms Whattam: That is definitely a troubled part of our community. We need that continuing presence to provide such programs and safe places for these people to go.

I think about my own teenage daughter, who is not into that kind of thing at all. However, peer pressure has to be considered. We need more role models in the communities and schools. We need to start sooner. Hopefully, that will reduce the problem.

I am sure they have their challenges in Winnipeg and in the bigger centres.

Senator Johnson: In Regina, too.

Do you have any comments, Ms Koebel? I know that they are joining these gangs starting at age 8, not just 12 and 14.

Ms Koebel: I am not sure about any specific programs for Winnipeg. I know some of the programming in friendship centres has to do with youth justice.

The youth council is far away from doing anything nationally about this problem. We have a scholarship of $500 for people entering the justice field, which I know does not directly tackle that issue in Winnipeg.

Senator Johnson: I know it is not part of your mandate to deal specifically with this population. We are not connecting with this group, either through Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal intervention. I was curious to know if they had any relationship with you anywhere in the country.

Senator Christensen: With respect to national outreach, are any of the centres ensuring that the rural communities and band councils are fully aware of the programs? Do you send people out to inform those who are leaving the rural areas and coming to urban centres that their first contact could be with a friendship centre, rather than a negative contact somewhere else? If they were able to make that kind of contact, they would have that support and be able to develop in a more positive way.

Ms Whattam: We have those types of relationships with First Nations communities that are two hours from urban centres with friendship centres.

Senator Christensen: However, that is not the case for people who are in the far North, is it?

Ms Whattam: Someone from the far North coming to Ottawa would not necessarily know about the friendship centre.

Senator Christensen: Their community would not necessarily be able to give them information and say, ``When you get to Ottawa, here is a number you should call''?

Ms Whattam: I think they would be aware of it.

Senator Christensen: Do the friendship centres have programs like that?

Ms Whattam: There is really no program like that.

Ms Koebel: It is spread by word of mouth. Aboriginal communities are pretty close-knit. I am sure every Aboriginal person knows what a friendship centre is.

Senator Christensen: Is there any sort of semi-formal process? That leads to my next question. You receive core funding and funding from provincial and territorial governments. Do you receive any program funds from band councils to assist you?

Ms Whattam: Not generally, no. Those are usually for on-reserve issues such as education.

Senator Christensen: I am wondering about when someone has come to the urban area from a rural community.

Do you have any programs that deal with persons who have physical or mental challenges such as FAS?

Ms Whattam: Yes, we do.

Senator Hubley: Could you comment on your substance abuse programs and some of the difficulties you face in administering such programs? Senator Gill touched briefly on what they term the ``turn factor,'' where there is continual migration. Is there a way, through the friendship centres, to encourage young people who may be having these problems and leaving a friendship centre to go somewhere where there is another centre? Can you track young people? Or is it too much of a challenge to track them to ensure they are receiving medication and are on the right track to healing?

Ms Whattam: We make referrals to substance abuse programs. If, for instance, people who come into a centre definitely need a drug or alcohol rehab program, we refer them to the various agencies that are responsible for those kinds of programs.

Friendship centres have a reputation for being drug and alcohol free. Many of our members who have such problems would be involved with a friendship centre because they know it is a safe place to go. There is no temptation because there is no chance that one day, we will be serving wine with lunch.

Some friendship centres offer healing circles and those types of activities, where recovering alcoholics or drug addicts can have meetings and workshops.

Ms Koebel: It would be hard to track that sort of thing because each friendship centre is different. Some friendship centres may have a drug and alcohol program, whereas others may have suicide or prostitution prevention programs. The issues vary from centre to centre.

Senator Hubley: How important is the cultural component in the healing process?

Ms Whattam: It is very important.

Ms Koebel: It is a priority.

Senator Hubley: Within your own friendship centre, can you see that need within young people to find out about the history and background of the culture?

Ms Koebel: Yes, it happens right from birth. Recently, the Odawa Friendship Centre had a welcoming ceremony for all the babies born over the winter. One of the elders here in Ottawa is from Saskatchewan. She is a Cree. They also bring in Metis people, Metis elders. Particularly in Ottawa, they are very flexible and facilitate the many different nations that congregate here.

Culture is very important right from birth through to the veterans' dinner. It is of prime importance not just in local friendship centres, but also throughout the movement.

Last year, at the annual general meeting of the Aboriginal Youth Council, we asked all the young people in attendance to name their priorities. The number one priority was education, and the social and cultural aspects were also very important. I believe they were number two in the order of priority.

Senator Hubley: You mentioned elders. Do you have palliative care workers through the friendship centres?

Ms Whattam: There is a program in Ontario called the ``lifelong care program,'' which is for people with disabilities, the chronically ill, and seniors. The demographics of the Aboriginal population show that many of the people in that age group become disabled. The need for those kinds of programs will only increase.

Senator Léger: My first question has been answered. I was happy to hear about the participation of both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals in the powwows, and the link that is beginning to form.

I am curious about something. The term ``First Nations'' is plural, and there are so many differences. Are there no problems when you get together? Does everybody think the same? I was surprised last week to hear about the Metis in the West and how there were people in P.E.I. who thought they were Metis. There must be common ground. Is it difficult?

Ms Whattam: When we are discussing First Nations, I think of people who come from reserves, who are status or treaty Indians and can be identified with a particular band or tribe, for example, Mohawk, Algonquin, Cree or Ojibway — there are many. As I mentioned earlier, we in the friendship centre movement are inclusive. We do not differentiate between First Nations, Metis or Inuit; we are all proud to be Aboriginal peoples. It does not really matter.

Senator Léger: I imagine the sharing of the different cultures among the Aboriginal peoples must be enriching, and perhaps the young people may come up against fewer walls.

Ms Koebel: You were talking about sharing. As I said, I am from Alberta, and the way we dance in Alberta is not the same as the way people dance in Ottawa. I went with a friend of mine who is also from Alberta to a powwow here at the Odawa Friendship Centre, and we noticed that they dance quite differently from the way we do. There is a great deal of sharing, and we can say, ``Okay, that is different.'' It is really flexible, in that if we want to talk to a Plains Cree elder or to a Metis elder here in Ottawa, they will try to find one for us.

Senator Léger: That is common ground. That is the main thing. We were asking if the bands continued to follow up with their young people going to urban centres. It is not a complete cut-off, is it? I know they cannot help financially because they have their own needs, but there must be communication.

Ms Whattam: Many people, when they make that move from the reserve to the urban environment, will often go back for visits. Sometimes they go back to work for various periods of time and then return to urban centres again, so they do maintain that connection with their community. People who have grown up on reserve and then move away maintain a very strong connection to their community. It is very important. Only those people who have grown up on a reserve and who have moved away feel that. They have that connection with their home.

I was adopted out. However, I know now where I am from and I made that connection when I was 18. I went back and found my mother and my family and made that connection with the reserve. Even though I have never actually lived there for any period of time, I do make that annual migration home to renew my ties with my extended family. What is really important to Aboriginal people is their sense of being with their family and their community.

The most important thing about friendship centres for me personally, and for many other people, is that they promote that sense of community. You may have a diverse group of Aboriginal people in a room, but we have a sense of community because we know each other. We have been living in the same urban environment for over 20 years; we have seen the children grow up; we have seen those children get married and have children, and so on. We have an extended family here.

The most wonderful thing for me in being involved at the national level, and Ms Koebel mentioned this earlier, is that I can now go anywhere in Canada, except for P.E.I., and there is a friendly face to greet me because they know about me and I know about them. I can go there and say, ``Hey, I am here, and we can visit.'' That is the most important thing. Not having that sense of community is very isolating. People who go to church get their sense of community from that, but we find it in our friendship centres.

Senator Léger: You mentioned P.E.I. Why do they not have a friendship centre?

Ms Whattam: I do not really know why.

Senator Léger: Maybe it is the population.

Ms Koebel: I wanted to add to what Ms Whattam said. Although I am not from a reserve myself, I am from a small community where there are two Metis settlements and four reserves in the area, and I still go back every year. My friendship centre has asked me to return to my community of 3,000 people on June 21 to give a presentation on being a role model and the kinds of things I have experienced since leaving the community. Unfortunately, when I went to school, not many Aboriginal youth were leaving the community. In a way that is good, but we do not have a university in our community. There is one high school and one junior high school.

When I returned last year, I noticed at my little sister's graduation that there were more young women graduating. When I went to school, a lot of young women were dropping out for various reasons — drug and alcohol abuse or having kids. In my sister's year, even though the Aboriginal girls were still having kids, they were finishing school. If you ask any Aboriginal person, ``Why do you want to go to school'' or ``why do you want to do this or that,'' they will say they want to do it for their community. I am on my way to law school. I want to do it for the 3,000 people in my community of Lac La Biche and for the other Aboriginal people across Canada.

Senator Cochrane: Many of my questions have been answered. Do you have some programs that stand out as being a success, and have you communicated these to other friendship centres so that they can also adopt them?

Ms Koebel: When people ask me that question, the two that come immediately to mind are the youth intervenor program of the AYC — that is how I got started — and the UMAYC. They go hand in hand. The UMAYC enhances the Aboriginal Youth Council. Friendship centres are generally youth oriented. That is how I got my start. That is why I am still with friendship centres, and I will probably stay with friendship centres forever. You learn leadership from both the AYC and the UMAYC.

The AYC stands out for me because I have had local, provincial, national and international experience. The UMAYC complements the AYC because it built on the Aboriginal Youth Council structure.

I have a seat on the board of directors. We have two youths on our board. It has empowered us because we know that we will be listened to and taken seriously. Youth have one-third of the vote within our movement. If we wanted to — I doubt we would — we could block votes. They gave us that power.

Those are the two that stand out the most. The UMAYC is very grassroots oriented and also national. It touches all aspects of the movement. If you look at it in a wider sense, it is very holistic.

Senator Cochrane: Do all centres have those two?

Ms Koebel: Not necessarily. If they have a UMAYC program, chances are they are involved with the national youth council. If you want a UMAYC program, you have to have a youth on your board. If there is a provincial youth council, they are usually involved in that. Then that province is connected to the national council. It is kind of confusing.

Senator Cochrane: I have seen the positive effects of sports and recreation programs for youth. Within your friendship centres, or are you aware of any studies that have examined the impact of programs like that on self-esteem, confidence and giving youth the ability to stand on their own two feet?

Ms Koebel: There was youth peer counselling. The UMAYC has a youth leadership development initiative that friendship centres could access. However, the UMAYC is the most important for that. It covers sports and recreation, leadership and a wide range of issues for Aboriginal people, whether cultural or educational. UMAYC is the best program for young people.

Senator Cochrane: Are there urban areas, aside from P.E.I., that you see as having a dire need for a friendship centre?

Ms Koebel: We recognize, as Senator Johnson was saying, that the urban areas are becoming bigger. Toronto has two friendship centres, and either Grande Prairie or High Prairie, one of the two, in Alberta has a friendship centre on the university campus. While all communities are in need of a friendship centre, I am not aware of any with a dire need.

Senator Cochrane: Let us return to your funding. You said each centre develops its own objectives before receiving funding. Is that funding from Ottawa or from a one-of-kind friendship centre?

Ms Whattam: Canadian Heritage is currently providing core funding to 99 friendship centres. In 2001-02, they provided one-time funding to 17 or 18 non-core-funded friendship centres.

We currently have a new contribution agreement with Canadian Heritage, and we are negotiating enhancements to that agreement and program funding to ensure that all friendship centres get core funding. That does not address new and developing friendship centres. We would hope that, at a minimum, each new friendship centre could obtain at least $100,000 for core funding. At present, it is not like that.

We have four board meetings a year at the national level. At least twice a year, we receive an application from a new and developing friendship centre saying they would like to become a member of the national association and they have the required documents, as requested. However, we do not have core funding for them. It is a challenge for those centres to fund-raise or go to the province and the federal government and get program dollars that way.

Senator Cochrane: Is it Heritage Canada that decides how much each friendship centre gets?

Ms Whattam: No. Canadian Heritage provides the dollars to the national association and we determine the amount each friendship centre receives.

Senator Pearson: I would like to return to your recommendations. I understand the first one, and certainly support it.

Could you explain the second one, which is about being a full member of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal steering committee?

Ms Whattam: This recommendation comes as a result of having Aboriginal representation only in terms of consultation. If we are not represented at the table, it is difficult to get our views discussed. If only First Nations, Métis, and Inuit organizations are at the table, the urban component is missing. That was behind that recommendation. We feel we know urban Aboriginal issues best.

Senator Pearson: What is the make-up of that steering committee?

Ms Whattam: It is the ministers responsible for the Aboriginal portfolios and the political Aboriginal organizations.

Senator Pearson: The third recommendation I understand.

Who leads the Aboriginal Human Resource Development Strategy?

Ms Whattam: HRDC.

Senator Pearson: You have taken part in it, but you are not full partners.

Ms Whattam: That is, again, the Aboriginal organizations.

Senator Pearson: We have not talked about the fifth one at all, which is the National Community Victimization Project. Could you tell us about that?

Mr. Alfred Gay, Policy Advisor, the National Association of Friendship Centres: I was going to refer to this, as it ties into several of the questions about how we track transients, as well as Senator Johnson's questions on the gangs.

We are a partner in what is called the ``national community victimization study.'' This is a groundbreaking study involving six or seven federal partners, including HRDC, Indian affairs, Justice and PCO, led by Simon Fraser University. We were asked to be a host organization and sponsor certain elements of it.

The victimization project is actually a series of six or seven different sub-surveys. These are sample surveys. They take a sample questionnaire and target Aboriginal people, as opposed to a census, where everyone has a statutory duty to reply.

We have been involved in this project for several years and it is starting to turn out results. They have done interviews in Vancouver. As many of you know, Aboriginal peoples in Vancouver are in a bad situation. Those conducting the survey interview Aboriginal people in the community.

The interviews are quite extensive, lasting two and one-half hours. Participants are paid $30. Part of the interview process examines victimization, social issues, drug and alcohol issues and family violence. You could name all the devils that face Aboriginal people, and this survey hopes to touch on them all.

It is an extensive project, costing something like $1.5 million. Certain elements of the study are being undertaken in Thompson, Manitoba, and also in Winnipeg.

The study is looking at discrimination in housing. A separate questionnaire is being administered to track the transient. Also, there is a question relating to the rural population. They interview rural Aboriginal people and identify the services available to them.

The study is to provide a solid foundation for what the buzz phrase today calls ``evidence-based decision making.'' We can say that Aboriginal people face all these social ills. However, if we do not have numbers attached, the success of our lobbying efforts will be limited.

This is the kind of work that we are undertaking. It is very targeted and very discreet. We hope to get a feel for what exactly is out there.

Currently, we rely on anecdotal evidence. There are a million and one surveys. We hope to get a good data set from those three communities.

From that, we will have the database to develop policies and programs, measure successes and analyze some of the best practices. The results should give us a really clear idea of what is happening out there. It will help us determine the effectiveness of existing policies and develop some future directions on issues that we may wish to address.

Our survey is limited to those three communities — Vancouver, Thompson and Winnipeg. Some of the preliminary results will be available in September.

Regarding youth incarceration, the Vancouver young offender survey has been completed. I would be pleased to give copies of the survey to this committee. I am not sure if it has been given academic clearance, so I was hesitant to release it. I would need to get clearance from the authors of the survey to do that.

Again, we are only one partner out of about 20 involved in this. I will ask them if we could release this to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

The findings provide us with a benchmark. Here is where we are now. How can we improve?

Ideally, we would like to bring that survey to bear in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Halifax and other major centres.

People are asking, ``Where is your evidence?'' This specific project will allow us to get those answers. However, we are limited by size and cost in such a huge undertaking. It is a very complex issue. This research should mesh everything together and give us a broader picture, rather than trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together from separate points of view.

I would be more than pleased to get the background information to you. I will leave my card with the committee for anyone to contact me.

Senator Pearson: Thank you. I am glad that I asked the question. That was very interesting.

The Chairman: When the friendship centre movement had just begun in the 1960s, we were all very concerned that the Aboriginal people of this country were migrating to the urban centres. The friendship centres at that time were the ``be all and end all'' for people moving into the cities. It has changed through the years.

We now have generations of Aboriginal people who have always lived in the city. They do not live on reserves. They do not live in Metis settlements. They are marginalized within the cities.

I am finding that many of those people now have their own small agencies in their own communities. They do not access the friendship centre because they have established their own community centres. I was referring to that change when I asked you about your outreach program.

Do you work with the smaller agencies? In Calgary, they have just started a Metis agency in Forrest Lawn and the friendship centre has moved out to another area.

Has the National Association of Friendship Centres improved access? Are you really working towards changing your programming so that it is more relevant for the Aboriginal people who have lived in the cities for a long time?

The children who have grown up in the city are the ones who are getting into trouble. They are getting into gangs because they have lost their identity.

Has the National Association of Friendship Centres begun looking at how to change with the times?

Ms Whattam: That could be addressed when the national board does its strategic planning. As you know, the representation on our national board is one representative from each region across Canada.

Our contacts at the regional level have the networks at the local level. It is a grassroots-fed organization. Everything comes from the bottom and moves to the top.

The people in B.C. identify different priorities from those in Ontario or the East. Many people realize now that their father, aunt and daughter have been involved. Generations of people have been involved in the friendship centre movement.

As I said earlier, I would like to see an expansion of programs and services for the higher end. I hear from the Ottawa community that we have nothing for the double income, no kids, high-end people. I am asked, ``Why do you not have an Aboriginal drama program or theatre program for us?'' I say that we are still trying to feed, house and clothe people.

We are certainly looking at how we could change with the times and at the new demands in our strategic and long- term planning. We are looking at where we want to go as a movement.

The Chairman: I understand that there will be a powwow May 24, 2002 in Ottawa. Would you like to tell us about that? I am sure that some of the senators would be interested.

Ms Whattam: I would certainly love for all of you to attend. It is the 26th Annual Odawa Powwow. It will be held at the Ottawa-Nepean Tent and Trailer Park on Corkstown Road, which is off Moody Drive. If you like, I will send you some information about that. It starts Friday afternoon around four o'clock. There will be drumming, dancing, Aboriginal food, arts and crafts. It will bring Aboriginal people within the community together to reconnect and share their culture and traditions with the non-Aboriginal community. It would be wonderful if all of you could attend.

Senator Christensen: Will it be this weekend?

Ms Whattam: It will be on May 24, the last weekend in May. The powwow is always the weekend after the Victoria Day holiday Monday.

Senator Johnson: Thank you for appearing before the committee today. I am certain that we will discuss these issues with you in the future as we travel across the country in the fall to talk with people at the friendship centres in the course of our study.

You are currently seeking an additional five-year-funding plan from Canadian Heritage. Your recommendations target future programs for urban Aboriginal youth. Could you tell us the key programs that you are targeting for the next five years? I see from these recommendations that there are extensive services listed for a number of areas. I am, of course, interested in knowing more about your five-year requirements for more funding. What are the key target areas?

Ms Whattam: In terms of the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres initiative, because of the diversity of communities, the projects that come forward are focused on the particular community. It depends on where the project comes from, whether it is a mentoring project, peer counselling or some kind of cultural project that would teach them about their culture and traditions, about their food, about their relationships with their elders and with their environment, or about living off the land — any of those survival kinds of programs.

Ms Koebel: We had determined from last year's annual youth forum that our main priorities — and there were about 100 of us from various centres across Canada — were social, cultural and educational issues.

Although they are vague terms, we have to leave them like that because we are from so many places across Canada. Young people want to tackle those issues.

Senator Johnson: Are there 99 friendship centres?

Ms Whattam: There are 117 friendship centres and funding for the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres initiative is limited. Of the 117 friendship centres, only some have a UMAYC project. If we divided that money equally among all the friendship centres, it would amount to about $100,000. That is not enough to run a program.

That is why we would like to see an enhancement to the friendship centre core program funding.

Senator Johnson: Thank you. We will call on you as we progress in our work over the next year.

The Chairman: Thank you. I found it interesting and important. We have been studied to death and do not need another study. This will be an action plan for change.

The committee adjourned.

Back to top