Coming right on the heels of the 41st Annual General Meeting of the National Association of Friendship Centres, the city of Montreal has pledged a 2,000-square-foot facility for a new Native Friendship Centre of Montreal (NFCM).
This year has been quite the emotional rollercoaster ride for the NFCM after their funding was cut in March by the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (RCAAQ), the provincial branch of the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program of Canada.
The issue regarding the old NFCM was that they were focusing mainly on troubled youth and homeless Aboriginals rather than the community at large. On their website, the RCAAQ posted a letter explaining the reasons behind their decision to cut off the funding while maintaining an understanding in regards to the NFCM’s position as an Aboriginal homeless reintegration centre.
After the cut, the old NFCM secured the funding needed to maintain their services and they are now running autonomously from the RCAAQ. At the moment, they are running a donation campaign to raise the money for a new building by 2013.
The RCAAQ regrouped and formed an eight-member steering committee selected from Montreal’s urban Aboriginal community to form a new Native Friendship Centre that is in keeping with the national mission of the Native Friendship Centres and to meet their needs in a transparent and democratic process.
The coordinator of the project, Éric Cardinal, was hired by the steering committee to direct the creation of the new friendship centre along with Ida Labillois Montour, a member of the steering committee. The other members include Will Nicholls, Nadir André, Linda Connelly Girard, Ellen Gabriel, Marie-Christine Gagnon, Jorge Herrera and Thelma Nelson.
Speaking about the creation of a new Aboriginal organization in Montreal, Cardinal said, “Our goal is to add to the services provided [already], not to duplicate or substitute other organizations. Essentially, we want to create a new centre that will complete the spectrum of services needed by the Aboriginals living in Montreal.”
About the two-day General Assembly held on August 31 in the Yukon Territories, Cardinal said, “The AGM was a big success, we were able to present our project to the other Native Friendship Centres. We received a good reception at the meeting which was a great encouragement.”
The location of the facility as well as the location of the first public assembly, which will be held on September 25, will be announced in the coming weeks.
The purpose of the new organization will be to provide a cultural hub in Montreal for all members of the Aboriginal community in a family-friendly environment, an opportunity to get involved in the development of a social economy, as well as cultural sensitivity workshops to help raise awareness amongst the greater Montreal community.
The activities that are being organized will be centred around the appreciation of Aboriginal culture and language with the hopes of instilling a sense of cultural pride in the next generation of urban Aboriginal youth and maybe even reigniting it in the older crowd.
Down the line, when things get up and running at the new NFCM, positions for youth coordinator as well as community service professionals will be available.
For more information on activities and services provided by the new NFCM, you can check their website at NativeMontreal.com.