Author Archive

Annual ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Indigenous Youth Leadership Training Event Scheduled to Return in March 2023

Media Release

B.C. – August 31, 2022 – The Gathering Our Voices (GOV): Indigenous Youth Leadership Training event brings together over 1,000 participants from across British Columbia and Canada to learn from Indigenous leaders, celebrate culture, share knowledge, and foster relationships to create positive change within the lives of Indigenous youth and their communities.
GOV 2023 is scheduled to take place on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations in the City of Vancouver from March 22 to March 25, 2023. Registration for the event will open at 10:00am PST on October 17, 2022.   
GOV is co-hosted by the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council (PAYC) and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC). The 18th annual GOV event was cancelled in March 2020, just days before it was set to take place, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event organizers made the decision to postpone GOV until it could return safely.
“Indigenous-led initiatives are the most effective at reaching Indigenous youth,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC. “We know that Gathering Our Voices has a long-lasting, positive impact on youth and their communities, with many youth telling us that their experiences at GOV profoundly influenced their path in life.”
BC Friendship Centres are Indigenous-led, social service organizations that provide culturally-relevant programs and services for Indigenous peoples living in urban areas and away from home. Indigenous youth are an integral part of the Friendship Centre Movement, preserving traditional knowledge and leading positive change with the vision for an equitable, vibrant society for all. GOV helps Indigenous youth access invaluable tools, resources, and partnerships to further their success.
GOV takes place over four consecutive days and includes keynote speakers, workshops, entertainment, career and education exhibitors, and an artisan marketplace. Applications are now open for individuals, groups, and organizations interested in collaborating with the 2023 event to be held in March.
For media and event sponsorship inquiries, please contact:
To learn more about Gathering Our Voices, please visit:
David Murphy

Custom MBA in Indigenous Reconciliation will support safer access to community social services

The BCAAFC is proud to collaborate with our partners at UVic to co-develop a custom MBA in Indigenous Reconciliation to support safer access to community social services for Indigenous people.  

UVic has demonstrated a commitment to providing culturally relevant education and training opportunities through our collaborative work on the 3C Challenge, an entrepreneurship program that provided 700 Indigenous youth across the province with training and mentorship to start their own small businesses from 2019 to 2021.  

The custom designed MBA program will also build off the success of the BCAAFC Management Training Academy, delivered in partnership with the UVic Peter B. Gustavon School of Business from 2019 to 2020. The Academy covered topics requested by Friendship Centre staff to increase capacity in their Centres. The training content and format was highly regarded by the 20 Friendship Centre staff who graduated from the Academy, and all expressed a desire for future training opportunities.  

The Friendship Centre Movement has over 60 years of experience delivering culturally safe social services for Indigenous people.  

Feedback from BC Friendship Centre Membership and the Social Services Sector Roundtable has been clear:  

  • We need to increase our capacity within the non-profit sector. 
  • We need to succession plan for new leadership when our leaders retire.
  • We need education and training opportunities relevant and specific to our sector’s needs
  • We must collaborate to lead reconciliation among the non-profit sector organizations, Indigenous and mainstream. 

The custom MBA program addresses these needs and is an important step towards safer access to community social services for Indigenous people.  


David Murphy

New Report Highlights Increased Violence Against Indigenous Women and Gender Diverse People During COVID-19 Pandemic

British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) with Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

July 13, 2022Vancouver, B.C. – Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) – The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Battered Women’s Support Services, joined by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre, released a year-long research project: “The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

In partnership with the University of Victoria, these leading Indigenous and anti-violence organizations in B.C. undertook a research project involving surveys and first-hand interviews with Indigenous women and gender diverse people across the province to understand the experiences of intimate partner violence that Indigenous women and gender diverse people are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the key findings of “The Road to Safety” include:

  • Pressures placed by the pandemic increased the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence experienced by Indigenous women and gender diverse people. 85% of survey respondents reported an onset of intimate partner violence during the pandemic, and 77% of survey respondents reported that they experienced an increase in intimate partner violence during the pandemic.
  • 67% of survey respondents faced challenges in accessing services during the pandemic, with 30% indicating that essential support services shut down. Growing waitlists to access services, inadequate access to transport and childcare, quarantine and isolation, racism and discrimination, and the involvement of MCFD and/or law enforcement agencies also prevented many Indigenous survivors from accessing anti-violence support services and safety.
  • 47% of survey respondents did not have access to an Indigenous-run transition home or safe house with culturally safe and relevant supports and services.

According to Leslie Varley, Executive Director of BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, “Overall, our findings indicate systemic challenges of access to justice and safety for Indigenous women and gender diverse people. Indigenous women reported widespread racism; fear of child apprehension and police when reporting violence; lack of safe housing when fleeing violence; and inadequate anti-violence services. Most government funding to address violence against Indigenous women is not in the hands of Indigenous organizations. Indigenous communities must receive funding to establish and operate programs ourselves, such as Indigenous-run 24/7 crisis support for Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people across B.C.”

States Summer Rain, BWSS’s Manager of Direct Services & Indigenous Women’s Program: “In 2022 alone, Tatyanna Harrison, Alysia Strongarm, Noelle ‘Elli’ O’Soup, Keara Joe, Carmelita Abraham, and Chelsea Poorman have all gone missing or died under suspicious circumstances in B.C.

Indigenous women and girls are being hunted down like prey because perpetrators know they can get away with sexist, colonial violence against us. Police and child services agencies perpetuate the violence, white Canadian men rip down posters of MMIWG, and there is glacial inaction by all levels of government to the Calls for Justice by the National MMIWG2S Inquiry. This is an urgent state of crisis, and we will continue to take action until the violence ends.”


Leslie Varley, BCAAFC Executive Director: 250-893-0494

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director: 604-808-0507

Women and gender diverse people experiencing gender-based violence and intimate partner violence can receive support from BWSS by calling the 24/7 crisis line at: 604-687-1867, or toll free at: 1-855-687-1868. The crisis line can also be reached by text at: 604-652-1867.

David Murphy

Indigenous people will have safer access to community social services

Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres


WHISTLER – The Province is investing $8.4 million to advance reconciliation in the B.C. community social services sector.

“Non-profits promote connection and provide valuable community services across B.C., and they need to be available and accessible to all,” said Niki Sharma, Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits. “Through this investment, we are increasing community social service providers’ capacity to offer culturally safe, inclusive, accessible social services to Indigenous people throughout British Columbia.”

The funding will support the development of a reconciliation framework for the community social services sector over five years.

Overseen by the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), the framework will include:

  • A custom master’s degree in business administration in Indigenous reconciliation, which will build capacity, implement cultural safety and support succession planning in the community social services sector. The program will be delivered by the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, with the first enrolment of students to begin in spring 2023.
  • The delivery of an Indigenous cultural safety training program to give social service providers the skills and confidence needed to recognize and uproot anti-Indigenous racism.
  • The expansion and customization of existing anti-racism tools to inform organizers where cultural safety training needs to be prioritized, such as:
    • an organizational assessment tool that provides organizations with a framework to evaluate the level of anti-Indigenous racism internally as a first step toward taking action to remove it; and
    • the Safespace web application, which allows Indigenous people and others to anonymously report incidents of racism experienced within the health-care system in the province. The application has demonstrated the value of a third-party reporting system for anti-Indigenous racism and will expand to include other service areas in addition to health care.

“The British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres is pleased to be working together with our Indigenous Safespace app colleagues, the social services sector and the University of Victoria to begin taking steps to collaboratively build capacity in our sector as we actively move toward reconciliation,” said Leslie Varley, executive director, BCAAFC. “To be clear, this is an Indigenous-led, multi-faceted approach, fully supported by our social services sector, academic allies and our Indigenous colleagues with the shared goal of culturally safe and inclusive services for Indigenous people.”

Systemic racism, discrimination and institutional barriers create persistent challenges to Indigenous people in accessing social services. Structural and systemic change is necessary to right the injustices of the past and present, end anti-Indigenous hate and discrimination, and help build a healthy economy and inclusive province.

The Province released the 89-point Declaration Act Action Plan on March 30, 2022. The action plan, which is a legislative requirement under the Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples Act, was developed in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous Peoples to ensure its actions were aligned with the priorities of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in B.C.

The reconciliation framework is tied to action 4.41 of the Declaration Act Action Plan: “Work with First Nations, Métis-chartered communities and urban Indigenous organizations, such as BCAAFC, to provide funding for self-determined, community-led programs for Indigenous Peoples to upgrade skills, obtain credentials, secure employment, and develop and support community economies.”

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –

“We are committed to a future where Indigenous Peoples design, control and set the standards for services that support and facilitate their well-being. This investment supports an Indigenous-led, multi-faceted approach intended to uproot anti-Indigenous racism, remove barriers and support culturally safe and accessible community services for Indigenous Peoples.”

Rick FitzZaland, executive director, The Federation of Community Social Services of BC –

“The social services sector is not immune to the need to change and decolonize our work. This is an exciting step, led by Indigenous people and supported by allies in the sector, to take important steps to make social services in B.C. truly safe, inclusive and welcoming. Thank you to the Province for making this investment and to BCAAFC for their leadership.”

Saul Klein, dean, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria –

“We are honoured to be invited to co-create the MBA in Indigenous Reconciliation together with BCAAFC and the provincial government. We look forward to bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants to build a shared understanding and commitment to reconciliation. This unique program will equip leaders in social services, government and non- profits to meaningfully advance reconciliation in their organizations and across our broader society.”

Dr. Kamea Lafontaine and Dr. Alika Lafontaine, co-founders, Safespace Networks –

“An Elder taught us that survivors have the deep desire to share their trauma, but individually and as a society we are rarely prepared to hear it. If we want truth to lead to real reconciliation, we need spaces built where sharing the truth and hearing the truth can be a safe experience for both storyteller and listener. Safepace Networks is proud to be part of a reconciliation strategy that protects truth tellers, educates decision makers and enables all of us to play our part in reconciliation.”


Quick Facts:
  • B.C. is home to more than 29,000 non-profit organizations that employ more than 86,000 people and contribute $6.7 billion to B.C.’s economy.
  • More than 80% of provincially contracted social services are provided by the community social service sector.
  • The B.C. Social Services Sector Roundtable provides a forum for senior government officials and agencies active in the community service sector, including BCAAFC.
  • Formed in May 2019, the roundtable collaboratively addresses issues and works to ensure co-ordinated social services delivery.
Learn More:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship:


B.C. Social Services Sector Roundtable: government/initiatives/social-services-sector-roundtable

Declaration Act and the Declaration Act Action Plan:


Ricki-Lee Jewell
Communications Coordinator
British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
778 966-8571

Vivian Thomas
Communications Director
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
778 974-5809

David Murphy

BCAAFC Statement: Anti-Racism Data Legislation

May 2, 2022

We acknowledge the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples, the traditional keepers of this land, for allowing us to work, play, and reside on their traditional and unceded territory.

BCAAFC is happy to have been part of the process in informing the B.C. Anti-Racism Data Act. BCAAFC hosted engagement sessions where representatives from B.C. Friendship Centres shared concerns, frustrations, as well as appreciation associated with the data collection process. Our hope is that this legislation will operate in a way that compliments the important work Friendship Centres do and helps to establish a consistent way to gather data that provides a respectful, strengths-based understanding of Indigenous communities, so Friendship Centres can continue to be responsive in meaningful ways.

We look forward to continuing a conversation with the B.C. government in the implementation of this legislation.

Thank you to BC Friendship Centres who took part in the engagement sessions that informed this legislation. To read the BCAAFC Anti-Racism Data Legislation Friendship Centre Consultation report, visit:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
Media Contact: David Murphy

David Murphy

BCAAFC Statement: Path Forward Community Fund

April 11, 2022

We acknowledge the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples, the traditional keepers of this land, for allowing us to work, play, and reside on their traditional and unceded territory.

BCAAFC is excited to develop and administer the Path Forward Community Fund, part of B.C.’s plan to end violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people. BCAAFC will manage the $5.34-million fund to help Indigenous communities and organizations expand safety planning capacity. Eligible projects include support for hosting planning sessions, culturally appropriate safety training as well as healing and cultural supports.

“BC Friendship Centres play a critical and direct role at a grassroots level in eradicating pervasive, systemic violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people. It’s inspiring to work with safety advocates empowering their communities. We look forward to continuing this important work in investing in community resilience, self-determination and reconciliation,” said BCAAFC Executive Director Leslie Varley.

For more information on the release, visit:

BCAAFC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
Media Contact: David Murphy
David Murphy

BCAAFC Statement: UNDRIP implementation in B.C.

March 30, 2022

We acknowledge the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples, the traditional keepers of this land, for allowing us to work, play, and reside on their traditional and unceded territory.

BCAAFC is pleased to support the Action Plan of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This government-wide initiative unanimously supported by all parties and focused on action will benefit all British Columbians. The Action plan is a clear step towards genuine implementation of human rights and equitable access to services for Indigenous people. BCAAFC looks forward to assisting the Province and Indigenous groups to end Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination, and to begin contributing to the social, cultural and economic well-being of Indigenous people.

“We hope this action plan will help to dismantle some of the colonial structures that have had devastating effects on our lives and cultures.” – Dr. Sharon McIvor, BCAAFC President.

For more information, visit:

Watch recording of today’s funding announcement:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
Media Contact: David Murphy
David Murphy

BCAAFC Statement: Recovery and Resiliency Fund for B.C.’s non-profit sector

March 24, 2022

We acknowledge the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples, the traditional keepers of this land, for allowing us to work, play, and reside on their traditional and unceded territory.

BCAAFC welcomes today’s news of a $34-million Recovery and Resiliency Fund for non-profit groups in the province, which includes $5 million specifically allocated to Indigenous-led organizations.

There are 25 Friendship Centres that deliver crucial programs and services to the estimated 85% of Indigenous people in B.C. that live off-reserve or in urban areas. With higher service costs and more demand on BC Friendship Centres due to the pandemic and recent environmental disasters, we applaud this announcement and look forward to more details and engagement with government partners on administering these funds in the near future.

For more information, visit:

Watch recording of today’s funding announcement:

David Murphy

JOINT STATEMENT: Provincial Budget Marginalizes Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Peoples

For Immediate Release

February 24, 2022

Traditional and unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation (West Vancouver BC) and Coast Salish Territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations, (Victoria, BC) – The Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) and BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) support the integral steps towards reconciliation found within BC Budget 2022. However, the budget falls short on priorities for both Indigenous women and urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing.

Approximately 85% of all Indigenous Peoples in B.C. live off-reserve in towns and cities and continue to be excluded from distinction-based funding. AHMA and BCAAFC call on the provincial government to expand their commitment to reconciliation by addressing the substandard living conditions and lack of social supports that Indigenous peoples endure throughout B.C.

Indigenous Women

BCAAFC is particularly concerned that Indigenous women have been the hardest hit financially due to the pandemic. “We see a large shortage of women in the workforce, especially trained childcare workers. Many Indigenous women have fallen out of the workforce because of inaccessible childcare, transportation, and the cost of working being only marginally more financially viable than staying home to look after family. It is disappointing that these issues are not addressed in this budget.” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres.

Furthermore, Indigenous women have experienced violence at a disproportionate level throughout the pandemic. It is of grave concern that no concrete measures within this budget ensure culturally safe and supportive services to address violence against Indigenous women.

Housing Priorities

“The budget lacks the specific means and measures needed to address the growing housing issues experienced by Indigenous people residing in rural, urban, and northern communities,” said Margaret Pfoh, Chief Executive Officer of AHMA. “AHMA released B.C.’s first ever provincial Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy and we’re calling on our government to support and implement our strategy to ensure all Indigenous peoples can access culturally safe and affordable housing.”

AHMA and BCAAFC call on the Government of British Columbia to work with Indigenous partners to better understand the lived reality of off-reserve populations in B.C. Only through meaningful engagement with Indigenous organizations and service providers can the social, economic, and Indigenous rights of urban and rural Indigenous peoples in British Columbia be claimed and protected in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous self-determination rights per the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous funding highlights from the 2022 BC Budget:

  • $57 million to increase the number of urgent and primary care centres throughout B.C.
  • $45 million to support the operations of up to 15 First Nations primary care centres.
  • $11 million to support the province’s Aboriginal Head Start program. (Providing culturally based childcare, early learning, and family bonding opportunities for Indigenous children).
  • $12 million over the next three years to support the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act and a new Declaration Act Secretariat.
  • $44 million to create the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship.
  • $4 million to expand the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program to help participants commercialism and scale-up innovative forest-based products.
  • $185 million over the next three years to support First Nations and forestry workers adapting to old-growth logging deferrals


Media Contacts

AHMA Communications Manager, Laurie Brownrigg

BCAAFC Communications Officer, David Murphy

David Murphy