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Joanne Mills accepts new role as Executive Director of Indigenous Relations at Community Living BC

We at the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) congratulate Joanne Mills, former Executive Director of the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA), on her new role as Executive Director of Indigenous Relations at Community Living BC (CLBC).
Joanne Mills is a member of Fisher River Cree Nation with ties to Skidegate. Her proactive leadership at FRAFCA can be felt by staff, clients, and partners. FRAFCA is a leading centre in the Friendship Centre Movement, receiving the Friendship Centres of Excellence Award presented by the National Association of Friendship Centres in 2019.
FRAFCA is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Fraser Salish People, including the Kwantlen, Katzie, QayQayt, Semiahmoo, and Tsawwassen. The Friendship Centre collaborates with the host nations to design and deliver services for the Indigenous peoples living in the Fraser Salish Region.
Joanne, thank you for your dedication to the movement—you will be greatly missed and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!
Joanne will continue to serve as Treasurer of the BCAAFC Board of Directors until her term is up.

Three actions you can take to help freeze the 2021 VicPD budget


In the midst of a global movement to combat racism and police brutality and defund police forces across so-called “North America”, the City of Victoria is proposing a 1.5% increase to the Victoria Police Department’s operating budget for 2021, which amounts to $60.7 million or 23% of their $255.9 million budget.
When other city services and programs such as planning and public works are being reduced due to significant decreases in city revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s proposed 2021 budget continues the concerning trend of annual increases to the VicPD budget. But there is something we can do about it! The City of Victoria is currently soliciting feedback on the 2021 proposed budget and there are three ways you can let them know that an increase to the VicPD budget is unacceptable.


Use the letter template ( to craft your own letter to the city outlining why you would like to see the police budget frozen or decreased.
**Be sure to address it to and send it by midnight on Sunday January 10, 2021.**


Complete the budget survey on by midnight on Sunday January 10, 2021. You must register by providing your email, birth year and postal code. You can use the points in the letter template ( to complete Question 10.
You do not need to complete the rest of the survey if you don’t want to; however the folks over at Poverty Kills have done a great analysis of the budget (, if you want to provide more in-depth input.
Note that the results of the survey will be quantified and reported out to the public; therefore, the more responses to the survey that oppose increases to the police budget, the better.


Participate in the Virtual Budget Town Hall on Wednesday January 13 at 6:30pm by submitting a written question/comment or 3-minute video to, or registering to speak live via phone by emailing by January 12 at 2pm.
You can also tweet your questions/comments using the hashtag #victownhall.
For more information visit

More support for friendship centres benefits urban Indigenous peoples during pandemic

News Release

VICTORIA – Indigenous peoples living in urban areas are receiving increased supports to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic through new provincial funding for friendship centres throughout B.C.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has tested everyone in ways we never imagined, and Indigenous peoples living in urban areas are relying on the help offered by friendship centres at unprecedented levels,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have provided additional funds through the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres to meet this significant demand and support the critical, culturally appropriate services that friendship centres are providing during this particularly challenging time.”
Friendship centres throughout B.C. provide many essential services for Indigenous peoples living in urban areas, including child care, counselling, food, and shelter. Over the past several months, friendship centres have seen a substantial increase in needs from people impacted by the pandemic.
“Friendship Centres have seen a rapid increase in requests for services during the pandemic,” said Leslie Varley, executive director with the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. “They are fulfilling the need for culturally safe and appropriate supports during a time where our people are more susceptible to the impacts of COVID-19.”
“We are addressing three priorities as a result of COVID-19—food security, personal protective equipment and sanitation, and equipment and supplies. The allotted funding will help ensure that those who are most vulnerable to the virus have access to food, and that our staff have the equipment and supplies they need to provide these services safely.”
This one-time COVID-19 relief funding of $7.8 million will help friendship centres continue to assist individuals, young families, single parents, youth and Elders through a mix of in person and online services. The grant will help provide supports like meals and hampers, care packages for seniors and education kits for children. It will help keep staff and clients safe with new handwashing stations, sanitization and personal protective equipment.
“Expanding our government’s support for friendship centres, and the Indigenous peoples they serve, is one of the important priorities the Premier tasked me with in my new role,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Given the pressures friendship centres have been facing as a result of the pandemic, this new funding comes at a critical time to bring them needed relief, and support their vital services for the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people in urban areas – including Elders who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and must be protected as knowledge-keepers of language and culture.”
This announcement is one of the immediate actions government is taking to protect British Columbian’s health and livelihoods from the threat of COVID-19. Government will continue working hard to keep people safe and healthy, so British Columbia can move as quickly as possible to address the economic recovery and its broader priorities: investing in people, strengthening communities, and supporting jobs and growth in a clean-energy future.

Quick facts:

B.C. friendship centres are part of a national network of Indigenous-led social service organizations that have served Indigenous families for over 70 years.
There are 25 friendship centres located throughout British Columbia.
The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres is distributing this one-time funding among all the centres.
Approximately 78% of the Indigenous peoples in B.C. live off-reserve or in urban areas.
In 2018, the B.C. government more than tripled the financial support for friendship centres by providing the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres with an additional $6.45 million over three years. This was the first time reliable, dedicated funding was provided to the association.

Learn More:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres:
For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit:
For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC Or visit the centre‘s website:


Cale Cowan
Media relations
Ministry Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
250 356-7324
Leslie Varley
Executive director
BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
250 893-0494

Providing a ‘Safespace’ for Indigenous Patients to Report Health System Concerns

News Release

B.C. – November 30, 2020 – Indigenous patients can now report health system concerns anonymously using Safespace Networks on the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres’ (BCAAFC) website. Safespace Networks is a community-led, nationwide initiative to create change in the health care system by holding individuals, organizations and institutions accountable to addressing racism.
The app’s design follows the advice of Te′ta-in (Sound of Thunder) Shane Pointe, Knowledge Keeper within Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond’s “In Plain Sight” report to focus on change, rather than a “shame and name” approach.
“As described in Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond’s ‘In Plain Sight’ report, the existing internal processes for monitoring and addressing racism within health care systems functions primarily to defend health care institutions. Racism complaints have been risk managed within the system, and this is now going to change,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC, “Safespace Networks will help our people define their own quality of care by providing a culturally safe and accessible way for their concerns to be heard.”
B.C. Friendship Centres are leading the Safespace Networks initiative in British Columbia. The app is available through the BCAAFC website under “Report Racism with Safespace”, alongside support resources for individuals who have experienced racism and discrimination in healthcare. The app will be available on every B.C. Friendship Centre website, and Friendship Centre staff will be available to support community members in making a report using the Safespace Networks web app.
As the network is adopted by patients in B.C., new features will be released that support racialized patients to self-navigate the health system and for health stakeholders to become aware of issues earlier than in the current system.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Leslie Varley at 250-893-0494 or
Dr. Alika Lafontaine at
About the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC)
The BCAAFC is the umbrella organization for the 25 Friendship Centres located throughout the province. Friendship Centres provide culturally relevant programs and services to support urban Indigenous people as they realize their vision of health, wellness and prosperity. To learn more, please visit
About Safespace Networks
Dr. Alika Lafontaine founded Safespace Networks in 2019 with the vision of a social enterprise and learning platform for patient advocacy. To learn more, please visit

Congratulations to B.C.’s new cabinet

We at the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) congratulate the Government of B.C.’s new cabinet members on their positions.
We raise our hands in the Coast Salish way, in respect and appreciation for the work of Premier John Horgan and the previous Ministers.
The BCAAFC looks forward to working with Minister Murray Rankin and the newly appointed cabinet to continue our collective work towards a vibrant society that supports Indigenous peoples living in B.C. and a brighter future in Canada for all.
Full cabinet for the new NDP government
Premier: John Horgan
Attorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby
• Parliamentary Secretary – Anti-Racism Initiatives: Rachna Singh
Advanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang
• Parliamentary Secretary – Skills Training: Andrew Mercier
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham
• Parliamentary Secretary – Fisheries and Aquaculture: Fin Donnelly
Citizens’ Services: Lisa Beare
Children and Family Development: Mitzi Dean
• Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen
Education: Jennifer Whiteside
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (and Minister Responsible for The Consular Corps of British Columbia): Bruce Ralston
Environment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman
Parliamentary Secretary – Environment: Kelly Greene
Finance: Selina Robinson
• Parliamentary Secretary – Gender Equity: Grace Lore
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy
• Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen
• Parliamentary Secretary – Rural Development: Roly Russell
Health (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix
• Parliamentary Secretary – Seniors Services & Long Term Care: Mable Elmore
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon
• Minister of State for Trade: George Chow
• Parliamentary Secretary – Technology & Innovation: Brenda Bailey
Labour: Harry Bains
• Parliamentary Secretary – New Economy: Adam Walker
Mental Health and Addictions: Sheila Malcolmson
Municipal Affairs: Josie Osborne
Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth
• Parliamentary Secretary – Emergency Preparedness: Jennifer Rice
Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons
• Parliamentary Secretary – Community Development & Non-Profits: Niki Sharma
• Parliamentary Secretary – Accessibility: Dan Coulter
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark
• Parliamentary Secretary – Arts and Film: Bob D’Eith
Transportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming
• Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn Ma


BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres Releases ‘Urban Indigenous Wellness Report: A BC Friendship Centre Perspective’

News Release

B.C. – November 23, 2020 – On this week dedicated to national conversations on substance use – National Addictions Awareness Week – the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) released the Urban Indigenous Wellness Report: A BC Friendship Centre Perspective. The report is informed by the collective experience and expertise of individuals within urban Indigenous communities across the province, and lays the groundwork for transformational change that will contribute to the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples.
“The Urban Indigenous Wellness Report is a community-based framework for achieving the actions required to improve health outcomes for urban Indigenous people,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC, “We know there is a need for Indigenous specific mental health services, especially for youth, and these programs need to be accessible and affordable.” 
The BCAAFC began work on the report in 2019 in response to the pressing mental health and substance use issues – notably the opioid crisis that B.C. has been facing since 2016 – that disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples living off-reserve and in urban areas. The need for individualized approaches to detox and treatment centres, as well as adequate aftercare and recovery supports, is also identified as a high priority.
Friendship Centres are the largest service-delivery infrastructure for urban Indigenous peoples and provide critical support for the wellbeing of individuals and families living in urban, rural, and off-reserve areas. The report provides guiding recommendations for the systemic change required in order for Friendship Centres to fully meet the health and wellness needs of urban Indigenous peoples in B.C.  
“In order to improve the health outcomes for urban Indigenous peoples, systemic change must occur at multiple levels,” said Varley, “We encourage all partners and stakeholders to read the Urban Indigenous Wellness Report and implement the recommendations.”
To read the full report, visit
For media inquiries, please contact: Leslie Varley at 250-893-0494 or

Leading Indigenous Service Sector Training – funding for Indigenous not-for-profits in B.C.

News Release

B.C. – November 3, 2020 – Indigenous social service organizations in B.C. can now apply for funding to support employee training and development. The Leading Indigenous Service Sector Training (LISST) funding opportunity will increase the number of skilled Indigenous workers in the social services sector by removing the cost barriers to advanced skills training and certification.
The B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) developed the funding for long-term planning within Indigenous not-for-profit organizations. The BCAAFC is the umbrella organization for the 25 Friendship Centres in B.C., a network of social service organizations with over 60 years of experience serving the urban Indigenous population.
“Indigenous not-for-profit organizations provide access to equitable, culturally-safe social services for Indigenous people,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC, “These community based agencies are often the place where new workers develop their professional skills. However, retention of our workers in the not-for-profit sector remains a challenge, as the pay scale cannot compete with other sectors. We hope to address staff retention with increased training opportunities.”
The LISST funding opportunity is open to all Indigenous not-for-profit social service organizations in B.C. Eligible organizations may apply for up to $10,000 for the training and certification of Indigenous staff cohorts, or for up to $2,500 for the training and certification of individual Indigenous employees.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having disproportionately negative effects on Indigenous people,” said Varley, “We are grateful to offer this funding at a time when Indigenous families are experiencing a higher rate of COVID-related unemployment than other groups.”
To learn more about LISST funding, visit
For media inquiries, please contact
To learn more about B.C. Friendship Centres, please visit

Request for Proposals (RFP) Consulting Assignments – Business Services

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

Development of Business Continuity Plan RFP

All locations specified
Attachments – yes
Responses – Online only
For more information contact:
Alexandra Pierik
551 Chatham Street
Victoria, British Columbia
V8T 1E1
Phone: 250-388-5522 ext. 5182
Solicitation Number: 11811
Original Publishing Date: October 27, 2020
Publish Date: October 27, 2020
Close Date & Time: November 22, 2020
Time Zone: Pacific Time

Summary of Details:

The BCAAFC is a leading provincial organization that exists to improve the quality of life for Indigenous peoples through the support of the member agencies. We are here to ensure the 25 Friendship Centres throughout the province feel supported with their efforts to serve the urban Indigenous communities in which they live, work, and play.
These Centres serve a wide range of communities who are subject to varying natural disasters including forest fires, flooding, earthquakes, etc. In recent years, the prevalence of forest fires poses a potential for devastating impact on the Centres and entire communities. In addition, the ongoing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the necessity of business continuity plans.

Business Continuity Plans

Conduct business impact analysis along with reviewing recent BC emergencies that could potentially occur.
Create a business continuity plan to avoid and mitigate harm, disruption, and costs in regards to an emergency.
Work with BCAAFC Occupational Health and Safety Team.
Ensure plan aligns with and adheres to industry and federal, provincial and regional emergency plan standards as well as best practices.
Engage with Friendship Centres to ensure plans meet specific regional needs. Develop clear examples to guide staff in effective communication strategies in the event of an emergency.

Statement in Support of Mi’kmaq Treaty Rights and Livelihood

Statement in Support
October 23, 2020 – We at the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) stand in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq people exercising their rights to fish and to a traditional livelihood, in the face of violence, vandalism and intimidation from commercial fishers.
The attacks against Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia and the lack of intervention from law enforcement violates human rights and demonstrates that such rights are not equitably upheld for Indigenous people. The actions of government, law enforcement, and commercial fishers reflects deeply entrenched racism and a complete disrespect for the Mi’kmaq people as the original and rightful stewards of the land.
We applaud the strength and resiliency of the Mi’kmaq people and we ask that both the federal and provincial governments act to ensure the safety of Mi’kmaq fishers and the protection of their constitutional rights.
To make a donation to support the community of Sipekne’katik in defending their treaty rights, please visit:
In solidarity, on behalf of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres,
Leslie Varley
Executive Director

Annual ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Indigenous Youth Leadership Event to Return in 2022

News Release

B.C. – October 20, 2020 – Over 1,000 Indigenous youth look forward to attending the Gathering Our Voices (GOV) leadership training event each year. The 18th annual GOV event was cancelled in March, just days before it was set to take place, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. and across Canada. Organizers have made the decision to postpone GOV until 2022 to ensure a safe return.

The event is co-hosted by the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council (PAYC) and the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC). The 25 Friendship Centres across B.C. have continued to provide increasingly necessary social services throughout COVID-19, many of them adapting their youth programming to continue online.

“Ensuring Indigenous youth have access to resources that support their success is vital to achieving a healthier, more equitable society,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC. “Listening to the voices of Indigenous youth is a key part of implementing the calls to action and justice we continue to fight for.”

GOV encourages youth to mobilize their collective strengths and create the change they want to see. Indigenous youth are carrying on the spirit of the event in the face of challenges exasperated by the pandemic. Registration for the 3C Challenge, an entrepreneurship initiative by the BCAAFC, has increased since the training moved to an online platform in March. The resulting business ventures reflect Indigenous youths’ drive to create economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable products and services, grounded in their cultures and traditions.

The GOV 2022 event will coincide with the BCAAFC’s 50-year anniversary. Varley said organizers look forward to gathering together again, “We raise our hands in the Coast Salish way, in high respect and appreciation, to the youth, staff, volunteers, partners, and funders who come together to make this event a huge success.”

For media and event sponsorship inquiries, please contact

To learn more about BC Friendship Centres and Gathering Our Voices, please visit and