Friendship centers in Alberta say they’re underfunded to help people during pandemic

‘What basically we need is the Government to recognize the urban indigenous as our own entity’

The Alberta Native Friendship Centre Association (ANFCA) says Indigenous peoples living in urban centres in the province need more help to deal with the pandemic.

“We need the same supports for mental health, family supports, education, medical needs,” says Len Morrissette, president of the ANFCA. “There is a soup kitchen, mat programs. Everything we deal with in the urban centres is what the Friendship Centre Movement does on a regular basis.”

Morrissette told APTN News that urban Indigenous people aren’t getting the same amount of money during the COVID-19 crisis as First Nation or Inuit communities.

He said of the $305 million allocated across Canada by the federal government, only $15 million was allocated to urban Indigenous centres.

Morrissette said friendship centres  haven’t shut down – but the money is running out.

“The urban indigenous population in the cities, as I’ve said, is about 68 per cent of urban indigenous people in this region, and there are higher percentages in other provinces,” he said.

“They need to be recognized as their own. And that little money they provided doesn’t really help in the long run.”

Morrissette wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explaining the lack of representation of urban Indigenous peoples.

“What basically we need is the Government to recognize the urban indigenous as our own entity. And understand the space that we exist in,” said Morrissette. “That there are four spaces. So now, First Nations, Metis and Inuit and Urban Indigenous. When people understand that space, they will understand why we are saying hey we need just as equal of supports.”

Morrissette said he hasn’t received a response from Trudeau yet – but is still hoping.