Canadian Human Rights Commission and Friendship Centres working together to improve human rights support for Indigenous people in urban centres

July 25, 2017 – Montreal, Quebec – The National Association of Friendship Centres and the Canadian Human Rights Commission

At a ceremony in Montreal today, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the National Association of Friendship Centres signed a partnership agreement to help Indigenous peoples in urban centres across Canada find the information and services they need to fight back against discrimination.

Both organizations are celebrating the partnership as an important affirmation of the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

 “Access to justice is about putting people first and connecting directly with people at the grassroots level — something the Friendship Centres have been doing for over fifty years,” said Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry. “Thanks to this partnership, we will have a stronger connection to the people we are here to serve. They need to know we are here to help.”

Mr. Christopher Sheppard, Executive Director of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre in St. John’s Newfoundland and the President of the National Association of Friendship Centres, commented on the significance of formalizing a relationship with the Commission: “This partnership is significant for Friendship Centres and the thousands of clients they serve daily because as service providers, we recognize that rights violations happen all too often to Indigenous peoples. The more we inform ourselves about what our rights are, the less likely we are to be impacted.”

He went on to say that this agreement represents one of the many legacies of the NAFC’s former President, Mr. Nelson Mayer, who initiated this relationship more than a year ago. Mr. Sheppard is one of four new Commissioners appointed to the Human Rights Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015.

It is the hope of both organizations that today’s agreement will bolster awareness among Indigenous peoples of their human rights and how they can uphold them. “When an Indigenous person visits a Friendship Centre seeking support or services, they should also be able to find information on what they can do and where they can go if they feel their human rights have been violated,” said Chief Commissioner Landry. “And likewise, when they call us looking for help, we’ll make sure they can find out where their nearest Friendship Centre is. Without awareness, there can be no access to justice.”

Quick Facts

  • The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is a network of 118 Friendship Centres and seven Provincial and Territorial Associations in more than 100 cities and towns throughout Canada. For over half-a-century, Friendship Centres have been facilitating the transition of Indigenous people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. For many Indigenous people, Friendship Centres are the first point of contact to obtain referrals to culturally based socio-economic programs and services.
  • As Canada’s human rights watchdog, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) operates independently from government and is responsible for holding it to account on matters related to human rights. The Commission administers the Canadian Human Rights Act, which protects people in Canada from discrimination based on grounds such as race, sex and disability.

Quotes

“This partnership is significant for Friendship Centres and the thousands of clients they serve daily because as service providers, we recognize that rights violations happen all too often to Indigenous peoples. The more we inform ourselves about what our rights are, the less likely we are to be impacted.”

— Christopher Sheppard, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres

“Access to justice is about putting people first and connecting directly with people at the grassroots level — something the Friendship Centres have been doing for over fifty years. Thanks to this partnership, we will have a stronger connection to the people we are here to serve. They need to know we are here to help.”

— Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

“When an Indigenous person visits a Friendship Centre seeking support or services, they should also be able to find information on what they can do and where they can go if they feel their human rights have been violated. And likewise, when they call us looking for help, we’ll make sure they can find out where their nearest Friendship Centre is. Without awareness, there can be no access to justice.”

— Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

 

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