Author Archive

Wally Samuel and Marjorie White recognized at Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council AGM

The BCAAFC Elders Council members are known for their commitment to helping others

Read the Ha-Shilth-Sa article here: Know where you come from: Nuu-chah-nulth members recognized for commitment to their nations

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s annual general meeting (AGM) was hosted by Ahousaht on September 25, 2019. Several community members were recognized for their knowledge sharing, advocacy, and leadership, including Wally Samuel and Marjorie White.

Wally Samuel has been involved with the Port Alberni Friendship Centre since 1980, helping Indigenous people living off-reserve in Port Alberni access culturally relevant services and support resources. Wally spoke about the issue of homelessness at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council AGM and the work being done to create an Ahousaht housing society in Port Alberni.

Marjorie (Marge) White is a founding member of the Friendship Centre Movement in British Columbia. She has received the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada for her outstanding contributions towards improving the lives of others. Marge says she never forgets where she came from and the greatest reward is to be recognized by her own people.

Marge and Wally are members of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres Elders Council. We are honoured to have their guidance and congratulate them on their achievements.


Indigenous Youth Leadership Training Needs More Funding

The annual Gathering Our Voices event only has half the funding required to support 2,000 youth

Media Release

B.C. — October 9, 2019 — Registration for Gathering Our Voices (GOV): Indigenous Youth Leadership Training sells out every year. The growing demand for the event speaks to the positive impact it has on the Indigenous youth who attend. Unfortunately, while demand for the event has increased, funding has lagged behind, forcing co-hosts to lower the number of tickets released for GOV 2020 registration. Registration opened at 10:00 AM PST this morning and hit capacity in three minutes.

Indigenous youth in Canada are at disproportionally higher risk of suicide, addiction, unemployment, incarceration, and being placed in care. GOV alleviates these risks by providing a unique opportunity for Indigenous youth leaders, ages 14 to 24, to connect with culture, their peers, and tools to support their success.

There are approximately 1,900 youth on the registration waitlist at this time, including groups from on and off-reserve, primarily in British Columbia, but extending all across Canada. Co-hosts have half the funding needed to support 2,000 youth at the GOV 2020 event.

“Every year we are challenged to raise the funds for an event which we know has a preventative effect on the risks that Indigenous youth face,” says Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, event co-host, “the youth who experience GOV tell us their younger siblings dream of attending the event when they are old enough.”

The event brings together Indigenous leaders, educational institutions, industry, public agencies and government departments for the four-day celebration of culture that connects Indigenous youth with leadership resources. The BCAAFC is working with partners to secure funding to open spots for waitlisted youth. Many youth groups spend the year fundraising to attend GOV.  

The BCAAFC co-hosts the event with the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council (PAYC) and the local Friendship Centre. GOV 2020 is set to take place March 16-19 on Secwépemc traditional territory in Kamloops, BC, with the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society. 

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for Gathering Our Voices, visit, or contact:

Leslie Varley, Executive Director, BCAAFC

250.388.5522 |



Mental Health & Wellness Engagement Sessions

The BCAAFC has secured funding from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) to conduct engagement sessions with service providers and service users in each Friendship Centre. These sessions will map existing wellness programs and identify program strengths, gaps and emerging priorities.

Sessions are currently underway. Here is a look at upcoming engagement sessions:

October 2, Port Alberni Friendship Centre

October 4, Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre (Smithers)

October 8, Quesnel Friendship Society

October 10, Cariboo Friendship Society (Williams Lake)

October 29, Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre (Port Hardy)

October 30, Wachiay Friendship Centre (Courtenay)

November 13, Ooknakane Friendship Centre (Penticton)

November 14, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre (Kelowna)

November 15, North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society (Vernon)

November 25, Conayt Friendship Centre (Merritt)

November 27, Lillooet Friendship Centre

November 28, Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society

December 4, Mission Friendship Centre

Please connect with your Friendship Centre for more details regarding the time and location of each session.


Ooknakane Friendship Centre | Just Like Paula Says

Penticton, B.C. — Ooknakane Friendship Centre (OFC) Mental Health and Addictions Program provides counselling services for anxiety, stress, family conflict, and addiction.

OFC is one of 25 Friendship Centres located in BC. Friendship Centres are a place for guidance and support, emphasizing respect and compassion for one another in the delivery of their programs and services. Together, Friendship Centres see approximately 4,500 clients each week.

Just Like Paula Says describes Christopher McGowan’s experience with OFC Mental Health and Addictions Counselor, Paula Jacobs. Paula listened to Christopher and became an inspiration for him on his path to personal growth.

Today, Christopher provides peer support at OFC, among other roles, and helps others progress on their own journey.

Watch the documentary short film:

Just Like Paula Says – Christopher McGowan’s Journey from Lydia Frederick on Vimeo.


Removal of sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act: descendants of First Nations women entitled to registration

Dr. Sharon McIvor launched her case to challenge sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act in 1989

Media Release

B.C. — August 20, 2019 — The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) celebrates BCAAFC President, Dr. Sharon McIvor, for her dedication to removing sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act. On August 15, 2019, the Government of Canada removed the 1951 cut-off from the Indian Act, ensuring women would have the same rights as men in the Act’s registration provisions. This change was the result of decades of litigation.

Dr. McIvor launched her case to challenge sex-discrimination in the Indian Act in 1989. She won a landmark case in the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2009. The win led to Bill C-3 the following year, which restored Indian status to grandchildren of women who lost their status for marrying a non-status man. While Bill C-3 restored Indian status to many, the 1951 cut-off denied status to the grandchildren of Indigenous women if the grandchild was born before September 4, 1951. No such exclusion existed for the grandchildren of Indigenous men.

Dr. McIvor and her son, Jacob Grismer, addressed the Act’s remaining discrimination with a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2010. They sought confirmation of the entitlement of female status Indians to hold and transmit equal registration status to their descendants, without discrimination based on sex. This case initiated the removal of the 1951 cut-off, resulting in the elimination of sex-based discrimination from the Act.

The Government of Canada reported that independent demographic estimates predict 270,000 to 450,000 individuals could be newly entitled to registration under the Indian Act within the next 10 years. 

If you believe you are entitled to registration, visit for more information.

About the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) is the umbrella organization for the 25 Friendship Centres located throughout the province of B.C. Mandated to improve the quality of life for Indigenous peoples, Friendship Centres deliver culturally-relevant programs and services to Indigenous people living off-reserve. B.C. Friendship Centres are part of a national network. For more information, visit


Contact:        Leslie Varley, Executive Director, BCAAFC

                        250.388.5522 |


BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres Announces New Board of Directors

July 2019 (VICTORIA, BC) – The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) elected three new board members with eight remaining on the board at the 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Williams Lake on July 6, 2019.

The BCAAFC welcomes three new board members to the board:

  1. Carol Camille, Lillooet Friendship Centre Society
  2. Tami Omeasoo, Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society
  3. Kerry Chelsea, Cariboo Friendship Society.

We thank our past board members: Victor Tom from Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society for serving as our Treasurer, and Kari Hutchison from Victoria Native Friendship Centre and Richard Samuel from Port Alberni Friendship Centre for serving as directors. We appreciate our continuing board members:

  1. President: Dr. Sharon McIvor, Conayt Friendship Society
  2. Vice-President: Elijah Mack, Conayt Friendship Society
  3. Treasurer: Joanne Mills, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association
  4. Secretary: Cal Albright, Kermode Friendship Society
  5. Youth Representative: Shyla Elgie, Prince George Native Friendship Centre
  6. Debbie Williams, Hiiye’yu Lelum (House of Friendship Society)
  7. Matthew Baran, Ooknakane Friendship Centre
  8. Fabian Alexis, North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society

Composition of New Board of Directors:

President – Dr. Sharon McIvor, Conayt Friendship Society*

Vice-President – Elijah Mack, Conayt Friendship Society

Secretary –  Calvin Albright, Kermode Friendship Society*

Treasurer – Joanne Mills, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre

Youth Representative – Shyla Elgie, Prince George Native Friendship Centre*

Director – Matthew Baran, Ooknakane Friendship Centre*

Director – Debbie Williams, Hiiye’yu Lelum (House of Friendship)*

Director – Fabian Alexis, North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society

Director – Carol Camille, Lillooet Friendship Centre Society

Director – Kerry Chelsea, Cariboo Friendship Society

Director – Tami Omeasoo, Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society

*Indicates Board members who are serving their second year on the board.

Always in Friendship,
Leslie Varley
Executive Director, BCAAFC


What’s Up at Wachiay – multimedia for Friendship Centres

Wachiay Aboriginal Multimedia (WaMM), working out of the Wachiay Friendship Centre in Courtenay, BC, is now podcasting!

“We intend to develop and air podcasts devoted to the stories, celebrations, programs, people, culture and goals of the Friendship Centre Movement across Canada.”

A few weeks ago we launched our first in-house produced podcast: ‘What’s Up at Wachiay’ – a weekly chat with our staff about their programs and services.  We intend to develop and air podcasts devoted to the stories, celebrations, programs, people, culture and goals of the Friendship Centre Movement across Canada. Our youth, staff and Elders will host podcasts where they speak with their fellow Friendship Centre colleagues across Canada about “What’s Up at Their Friendship Centre”. We want to create a national outlet that represents the voices of Friendship Centres.  We’ll even be podcasting live from this summer’s Music Fest here in Courtenay.

So, what is a podcast? Quite simply, it’s a conversation. Like an old school radio talk show, but without rules, restraints or commercials. A host speaks with guests about a topic, story, event, similar interests and an interview or friendly discussion is the end product. We get to listen. And listen we do! The respected publication Fast Company found that in 2018 there were over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million podcast episodes!

Podcasts have sky rocketed! So much so that major players like Apple and Soundcloud have jumped into these turbulent waters with both feet.

WaMM intends to take full advantage of this medium with our Community Podcast Centre. When Wachiay purchased our building it came with a fully functioning FM radio station previously known as The JET. Our facilities include a master control room, a professional audio/video production studio, a two person voice-over booth, a five station student work room and a three seated soundproof broadcast room – just like you see on TV! We deliver classes and workshops that cover the full gamut of basic multimedia production including recording, lighting, cameras, mics, editing software and most importantly – writing. Everything starts with a script!

In the planning stages, and soon to go live, will be a podcast series based on the work of a local novelist; a series based on integrating Elders experience and practical advice to youth under duress; a series featuring environmental challenges and changes in our communities; and a podcast devoted to the creative Indigenous arts community here on Vancouver Island. We are even casting for a podcast series featuring traditional children’s stories.

Call or email Rob Crowston at WaMM to talk about what we can create for your Friendship Centre:

Check out our websites: , and to find out more.  

Phone:  778-225-0309  Email:

We look forward to talking with you about how multimedia can spread the word about your Friendship Centre.


BCAAFC President Dr. Sharon McIvor responds to MMIWG Report

Daflos, P., CTV Vancouver, June 3, 2019 – ‘Shameful and disgraceful milestone’: Response to MMIWG report from Vancouver

“‘It’s finally good to have it acknowledged that what’s been happening to us for the last 200 years is genocide,’ said lawyer, activist and professor Sharon McIvor.”

“McIvor says while she’s encouraged to see the report finally come to fruition, it’s going to take a long time to fix the deep systemic inequalities at play.”

Read the final report here – Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls


Gathering Our Voices 2019

Indigenous Youth Leadership Training

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), the Provincial Youth Aboriginal Council (PAYC) and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre (PAFC) are honoured to host Gathering Our Voices (GOV) 2019 on the traditional territory of the Hupačasath and Tseshaht First Nations. The purpose of the event is to unite youth throughout the country in learning, healing and sharing, and to provide tools, resources and knowledge the youth can bring back to their communities.

In the spirit of bringing people together, the event is hosted in different communities and in partnership with different Friendship Centres each year. This year the Hupačasath and Tseshaht have graciously welcomed our delegates to their territory to share their culture and knowledge, as well as create a legacy that helps GOV grow each year.

The BCAAFC has hosted sixteen Gathering Our Voices, starting with over 100 delegates in communities such as Prince George, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kamloops, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince Rupert, Penticton and Richmond. Since then, it has grown immensely and continues to grow with the support of the delegates, volunteers, chaperones, facilitators, exhibitors and host communities.

GOV 2019 registration reached capacity within an hour. This overwhelming response of support serves to reinforce the need for a provincial forum where Indigenous youth can come together to being to make positive changes in their lives and in their communities.

We raise our hands and thank you for your continued support as we grow together.

Leslie Varley
Executive Director, BCAAFC


Women’s Innovation Fund

PHSA has released guidelines for an Innovation Fund dedicated to Indigenous women living with or at risk of HIV and HCV. This funding is for $75,000 per fiscal year, for 2018/2019 and 2019/20.   Proposals are due on Friday, September 14th and can be submitted to

Please use the attached proposal template  for submissions.

Innovation Fund Guidelines