National community groups partner to advance reconciliation in youth

By Matteo Cimellaro
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Canada's National Observer

Two nationwide community groups have joined forces to strengthen opportunities for partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.

On Thursday, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and BGC Canada (formerly the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada) signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at advancing reconciliation and committing both organizations to facilitating opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to learn from each other.

The signing makes the partnership both formal and official, said Owen Charters, president and CEO of BGC.

“BGC Clubs across the country are proud to partner with the NAFC to advance reconciliation and create opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth alike. Our Clubs have committed to creating equitable spaces for Indigenous staff, children, and youth, and to ending systemic inequities faced by Indigenous communities,” Charters said in a press release.

The partnership was already happening in communities, like Saskatoon, but the memorandum of understanding now creates a national mandate to collaborate on programming and share knowledge among both organizations’ national boards of directors and national youth councils. 

It will also open up funding opportunities for cross-organizational programming.

The top-down approach was inspired by grassroots local affiliates that were already working together.

The memorandum responds directly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 66, which calls on the federal government to establish multi-year funding for community-based organizations. 

“This partnership will support both our Youth Councils in learning from each other to increase respect, understanding and reciprocity between urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth,” Jocelyn Formsma, executive director of NAFC, said in a press release.

The partnership is symbolic for Charters: it’s about doing the exact opposite of what happened in residential schools.

“Getting [Indigenous] youth engaged and getting them involved in opportunities and meeting them where they are, rather than bringing them where we are, we wanted to know how to do that well,” Charters said.

Where they were was in friendship centres, so creating an official partnership with friendship centres allows BGC to share knowledge and resources to create a better future for all Indigenous youth, he added.