The origin of today’s “Friendship Centre” began in the mid-1950s as the number of Aboriginal people moving into larger urban areas increased. Aboriginal agencies emerged out of a clear need for specialized services to aid Aboriginal new comers to the city. These agencies would provide referrals and offer counseling on matters of employment, housing, education, health and liaison with other community organizations.

As the demand for services by urban migrating First Nations, Inuit and Métis people increased so, did the number of Friendship Centres. The nature of programming and services was quickly amplified.

In the late sixties, Friendship Centres began to organize into Provincial/Territorial Association’s (PTAs) and a steering committee of Friendship Centres was struck to examine the feasibility of establishing a national body to represent the growing number of Friendship Centres.By 1972, Friendship Centres were dependent, to a large degree, on individual volunteers and their ability to raise operating funds through various fund raising events which included private donations and small grants from foundations and federal, provincial/territorial governments. Friendship Centres also began to evolve from the provision of referrals to “front-line” delivery vehicles of social services. It was also during 1972, that the Government of Canada formally recognized the viability of Friendship Centres and implemented the Migrating Native Peoples Program (MNPP).

In 1976, the government conducted an evaluation of the MNPP which revealed the vital role that Friendship Centres played in the communities they served and the wide base of the community support they had established.

Friendship Centres were also able to utilize limited resources in a creative and flexible manner while remaining accountable to their communities. In spite of many obstacles, Friendship Centres have continued to expand the programs and services offered to urban Aboriginal people.

In 1983, the NAFC and the Department of the Secretary of State (DSOS) successfully negotiated the evolution of the MNPP to an enriched Native Friendship Centre Program (NFCP). This program, with a five-year mandate, formally recognized “Friendship Centres” as legitimate urban Native institutions responding to the needs of Native people. In 1988, the NFCP became the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program (AFCP) which secured the status of permanent funding from DSOS.

The funding relationship fundamentally changed in 1996, when the administrative responsibility for the AFCP was transferred from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the NAFC. This new agreement meant that all operational funding for the AFCP would be administered by the NAFC to Friendship Centres and the PTA’s. This transfer signified a new era in Aboriginal/Government relations and, to this day suggests a unique relationship with the Government of Canada.

 It notably demonstrated a commitment on behalf of the government to increase the capacity and sustainability of Aboriginal organizations.

Today, over half-of-a-century after the initial development of Friendship Centres in Canada. The Friendship Centre Movement has expanded and continues to offer the same essential programs and services to urban Aboriginal people across Canada. A total of 119 Friendship Centres are members of the NAFC.

The Friendship Centre Movement is unique in the broad spectrum of specialized services it providers to urban Aboriginal people across Canada.

Programs and  services currently offered at Friendship Centres include: Culture, Family, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Language, Justice, Housing, Health, Education, Employment, Economic Development and a variety of miscellaneous projects ranging from social activities to community building initiatives and special events.