The Native Friendship Centre of Montreal (NFCM) may close within the next three months due to lack of secure funding. On October 12, 2011, the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (RCAAQ) suspended the centre’s provincial membership as well as recommended a suspension of its funding because of the NFCM’s denouncement of inconsistencies in the application of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program’s (AFCP) Criteria and Guidelines.

The NFCM claims that the RCAAQ declined participation in the dispute resolution process and cited in a letter to not recognize its legitimacy as set out in the national Criteria and Guidelines. The matter has since been turned over to the Department of Canadian Heritage and is currently under investigation.

At a special assembly held on March 21 at the NFCM, the issues of the suspension of the centre’s membership and of the outstanding funding were discussed. “We have not received any core funding for the 2011-2012 fiscal year because of a unilateral termination of a special bilateral agreement,” said Brett Pineau, Executive Director of the NFCM.

Both parties involved in the membership dispute, the RCAAQ and the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), were invited to the meeting – the RCAAQ made a board decision not to be present and the NAFC had prior engagements. “What we were told by the RCAAQ was pretty much, ‘we don’t want to play the game, so the game’s over,’” said Eric Ravenelle, President of the NFCM.

The core issue related to the suspension of funding was the renewal of the NFCM’s bilateral agreement. “We never got any correspondence saying that the agreement was extended. We’ve asked for documentation several times to show us where it was agreed that this bilateral agreement was extended and the document has never been put forward,” said Ravenelle. “They [the RCAAQ] are saying that the agreement was extended and we didn’t follow it.”

“The only thing we have on file is an expired agreement. We have a big problem,” said Pineau.

At press time, the RCAAQ could not comment on the matter.

“The reason why we’re in this situation is because apparently we’re not following the document that we’ve asked for,” said Ravenelle. “At our meeting on October 12, I asked Josée Goulet, the executive director of RCAAQ, and Jeffery Cyr, the executive director NAFC, for that document and no one knew where it was. Goulet shrugged her shoulders – that was the response I got.”

The last bilateral agreement signed by the NFCM had a three-year mandate from July 2007 to July 2010. The RCAAQ allegedly claimed that in correspondence dated September 5, 2011, the NFCM terminated the agreement, resulting in the suspension of core funding for 2011-2012 and all subsequent years, which would force the NFCM to shut its doors. “The implications of us going under are very serious for the Aboriginal community,” said Pineau.

“The NFCM is not given resources financially capable of operating and being everything to everybody. We do not have designated streams of socio-cultural funding, but we are doing our best given the existing contribution agreements that we have signed with the federal government,” said Pineau.

The renewal of the Youth Centre Program has not yet been confirmed at press time. According to Pineau, the funding for the program has dropped from what was once $123,000 to $115,000 last fiscal year.

Montreal will lose its only community and youth centre that provides health, social, legal, orientation, education, training and employment services for First Nations people arriving in the city.

The NFCM is currently relying on accumulated reserves which will allow them to stay open for an estimated three months.