Category ArchiveMedia

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

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

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

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

Doulas for Aboriginal Families Grant Program: Changes to doula eligibility requirements

News Release

April 1, 2020

More Indigenous birth workers will have access to the Doulas for Aboriginal Families Grant Program (DAFGP) under its new eligibility requirements. The program, delivered by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, provides Indigenous families living in BC up to $1,000.00 for doula support. Since 2013, the program has increased healthy birth outcomes for Indigenous families by removing the cost barrier to accessing doula services and bringing the birthing process closer to home.

The program’s previous doula eligibility requirements included certification through non-Indigenous oriented organizations, creating a barrier to accessing the program for many Indigenous birth workers. The new changes recognize that eligibility to the program must consider Indigenous peoples’ longstanding and enduring traditions of birth work.

These changes are already being celebrated by Indigenous service providers across BC. “The shift in requirements allows our Birth Keepers to be free of colonial restraints […] that otherwise impede the good work that has always been traditionally carried out”, shared the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Center Association (FRAFCA) Indigenous Birth Keeper Collective. “The [new] requirements give families greater opportunity to access culturally-safe, trauma-informed, traditional birth supports.”

Indigenous birth work positively influences Indigenous health, despite the disruption of Indigenous birth practices through policies such as residential schools and the biomedicalization of birth. Doulas can act as advocates for families and make positive contributions in situations where people are cited as high-risk, are without family supports, or are birthing away from their home communities. The program has also recently released a travel grant to support doulas for this purpose.

Indigenous families look to their own rich cultural traditions to inform their pregnancy-related experiences, and Indigenous doulas can facilitate incorporating traditional practices into the birthing process. As Indigenous doula care emerges as a best practice in Indigenous reproductive and maternal health care, assessment and response, the DAFGP is proud to increase access to Indigenous doula supports.

Visit for more information about the grant program.

For inquiries, please contact: Kassandra Woods at (250) 388-5522 ext. 252 or

“We have Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Medicine people, parents, youth, children, and babies that constitute our community. Everyone is invested in supporting our Life Givers through the birth transition in a good way. This is a traditional value.”

FRAFCA’s Indigenous Birth Keeper Collective is grounded in culture and works as a close-knit community of perinatal support to families.

Gathering Our Voices 2020 cancelled due to health concerns with COVID-19

Media Bulletin – British Columbia

March 12, 2020

It is with heavy hearts and careful consideration that we cancel this year’s Gathering Our Voices (GOV) event, which was scheduled to take place from March 16 to March 19 on Secwépemc traditional territory in Kamloops, B.C.

The decision to cancel GOV 2020 upholds the safety precautions recommended by provincial health authorities to best protect the health of the population with concerns around COVID-19.

GOV organizers have been in daily contact with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and Interior Health. In B.C. the presence of COVID-19 has increased from containment to community transmission. The World Health Organization assessed that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic on March 11. The ability to predict the virus and protect our community has changed; therefore, we feel that cancelling the event is the best call to protect our families and communities. 

Over the next ten days we will be in contact with all registered groups, vendors, presenters, etc. to start the process of refunds and contract cancellation. Due to the sheer volume of work with cancelling such a large event, we ask for everyone’s patience as we proceed during the coming days.

A lot goes into planning for GOV each year, from youth, chaperones, Elders, staff, partners, the host communities, and all the participants who come together to learn from Indigenous youth leaders, celebrate culture, share knowledge, and foster connection. We appreciate everyone’s time and energy and while we believe cancelling the event is in the best interest of our attendees and their networks, we are deeply saddened that this year’s event will not take place.

Thank you for your support of Gathering Our Voices and we look forward to welcoming you next year.

If you do not hear from our team within the next ten days, or you have additional questions, please contact:

For media inquiries, please contact: Leslie Varley at 250-893-0494 or


Source: World Health Organization media briefing – 11 March 2020

Gathering Our Voices 2020 and Health Concerns with COVID-19

Media Bulletin – British Columbia

March 9, 2020

Gathering Our Voices (GOV) 2020 is set to kick off on Monday, March 16, on Secwépemc traditional territory in Kamloops, B.C. We are excited to host over 1,000 Indigenous youth delegates for four days of cultural celebrations, leadership workshops, and social events.

Safety and health is always first and foremost in our thoughts while we plan Gathering Our Voices, and this year, amongst concerns of COVID-19, is no different. We have been in touch with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and Interior Health and we are doing everything in our power to ensure a safe and successful gathering.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) has stated, “It is not necessary to cancel school events, outings or field trips to public locations in B.C. and Canada and to most places in the world.” There have been 27 confirmed cases in B.C., which has a population of over five million, and health authorities are working to track and contain these cases.

We will continue to monitor the on-going situation and let delegates and attendees know immediately if our concern increases or changes need to be made.

Each group registered for GOV will receive information on the health and safety protocols leading up to and on-site at the event. Thank you for your support in taking care of one another. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Kamloops next week!

For more information on COVID-19:
· BC CDC Recommendation for Post Secondary Students/Faculty
· Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Information from CDC
· WHO myth busters – COVID-19

For more information on Gathering Our Voices:
· GOV website:
· Event updates:
· For general inquiries, contact or 250-388-5522 ext. 241


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 |


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 |