Indigenous communities and Ontario municipalities sign agreement to advance reconciliation

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TORONTO, ON – Today, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) are taking a meaningful step towards reconciliation with the signing of the Declaration of Mutual Commitment and Friendship: Improving the Quality of Life of Indigenous People across Ontario’s Municipalities.

Developed and led by the collective expertise of OFIFC and AMO’s memberships, the Declaration highlights the relationships and work being done to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people across Ontario’s municipalities. It emphasizes the leadership of collaborating Friendship Centres and municipal governments and raises the bar for increased and future dialogue and partnership. The agreement is designed to help municipal governments and Friendship Centres build relationships and collaborate to improve supports and services for Indigenous people in their communities.

Developed over the past year, the following municipal governments and Friendship Centres have now formally signed the Declaration:

  • The Town of Fort Erie, the Region of Niagara and the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre
  • The Town of Sioux Lookout and the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre
  • The City of London and the N’Amerind Friendship Centre
  • The Town of Cochrane and the Ininew Friendship Centre
  • The City of Sault Ste. Marie and the Indian Friendship Centre
  • The City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre

Several more partners are in the process of discussing a local declaration, including but not limited to:

  • The City of Dryden and the Dryden Native Friendship Centre
  • The City of Ottawa and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre
  • The Town of Red Lake and the Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre
  • The Town of Fort Frances and the United Native Friendship Centre
  • The City of North Bay and the North Bay Indigenous Indian Friendship Centre

In Ontario, 85 percent of Indigenous people live off-reserve in urban and rural communities. Friendship Centres have existed in Ontario municipalities for more than half a century and contribute to municipal community life. They play a vital role in community development, social cohesion, and improving the quality of life for the growing percentage of Indigenous people living in Ontario’s municipalities.

“Friendship Centres recognize that the development of relationships based on mutual respect and trust with municipalities is essential to achieving long-term positive impacts for Indigenous communities,” says Jennifer Dockstader, President, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. “We are both uniquely positioned to improve wellbeing by working to reduce inequality, discrimination, stigma and racism and by investing in improving social determinants of health. By working together, Friendship Centres and municipalities are recognizing mutual responsibility to address urban Indigenous community needs through relationships, partnerships and collaboration.”

This work demonstrates that relationship building between these organisations and collective memberships is necessary to improve the quality of life of Indigenous community members living in cities and towns across Ontario. The agreement is based on mutual respect, responsibility and trust — key principles to building meaningful relationships and supporting closer cultural, social and civic ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“This Declaration strengthens our partnership with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. We encourage collaboration between municipalities and Friendship Centres, and support opportunities to build relationships and improve community supports and services. AMO is here to advance this work,” says Jamie McGarvey, President, Association of Municipalities of Ontario. “We are thankful for these efforts in strengthening communities across Ontario and we are committed to the relationship we will continue to build together.”

The agreement is a living document where AMO and OFIFC will continue to recognise leadership by municipal governments and Friendship Centres, now and into the future as more local communities sign on. OFIFC and AMO hope that this Declaration becomes a framework for meaningful relationship building between urban Indigenous communities and municipalities. It plans for the collective memberships to play a leadership role and set a standard by advancing reconciliation locally and regionally, and establishing relationships that improve the wellbeing of Indigenous communities across Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC)

OFIFC represents the collective interests of 29 Friendship Centres in cities and towns across the province. Friendship Centres are places for community members and Indigenous people living in urban spaces to gather, connect with one another and receive culturally based services. Friendship Centres improve the lives of urban Indigenous people by supporting self-determined activities which encourage equal access to, and participation in, Canadian society while respecting Indigenous cultural distinctiveness.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)

AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments. AMO supports and enhances strong and effective municipal government in Ontario and promotes the value of municipal government as a vital and essential component of Ontario and Canada’s political system.