Province and friendship centres take steps towards reconciliation

LONDON – The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) signed an agreement with the ultimate goal of ending anti-Indigenous discrimination in Ontario.

The agreement sets the stage for future collaboration with urban Indigenous communities that is based on trust, dignity, respect, and a shared commitment to reconciliation and substantive equality.

Under this agreement, the OFIFC and OHRC will work together to build the capacity and human rights knowledge of OFIFC and Friendship Centre staff, share information and data, engage with urban Indigenous people on policy development, and coordinate provincial advocacy in key areas such as health care, child welfare and criminal justice.

“I had the honour of being in Ottawa when the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was presented,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “Signing a co-operation agreement with the OFIFC will help us continue to take steps towards long-lasting reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Ontario.”

This agreement reflects the OHRC’s commitment to engage with Indigenous leaders and communities on common issues and concerns. It will connect the OHRC with the nearly two-thirds of Indigenous people who live in urban areas and are protected from discrimination in housing, employment and services under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Friendship Centres are the primary service delivery agents for Indigenous people seeking culturally-sensitive and culturally-appropriate services in urban communities.

“This partnership is an important step in protecting and defending the human rights of Indigenous people in Ontario,” said Susan Barberstock, President of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). “This agreement between our organizations will bring communities together to safeguard the human rights of Indigenous people.”

The OHRC has already partnered successfully with the OFIFC to hold focus groups across the province. The 28 Friendship Centres across Ontario provided vital input on issues like racial profiling, understanding and accommodating creed, and issues in child welfare.

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