‘On a journey’: AHS, Alberta Native Friendship Centres sign three-year agreement

‘On a journey’: AHS, Alberta Native Friendship Centres sign three-year agreement

“We look forward to working with AHS to increase health outcomes for urban Indigenous people. This is a positive start on a journey between our provincial association, our community-based friendship centres, and AHS.”

Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association have signed a three-year agreement focused on improving access to culturally safe healthcare and health outcomes for Indigenous people.
Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association have signed a three-year agreement focused on improving access to culturally safe healthcare and health outcomes for Indigenous people. Photo by John Lucas /John Lucas/Edmonton Journal

Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association have signed a three-year agreement focused on improving access to culturally safe health care and health outcomes for Indigenous people.

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The agreement, which continues collaboration between the two organizations, was announced in a news release Saturday.

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“For many years, we have worked together with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association to decrease barriers and build trust with Indigenous clients,” said Mauro Chies, interim AHS president and CEO in the release.

“Friendship centres continue to provide a safe place and a voice to Indigenous clients, especially to those people living outside of traditional territories and Settlements. The relationship we continue to foster is important to the health and well-being of all Indigenous peoples, and we count on this relationship to improve health outcomes for Indigenous clients. We are honoured to sign this agreement today and look forward to continuing this valuable partnership.”

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The Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association (ANFCA) supports 21 centres across the province that respond to the needs identified in the communities they serve. The centres offer programs and services, including accredited alternative schools, daycares, youth centres, employment programs, homeless shelters, cultural camps, socio-economic, health promotion and prevention and life skills programs.

“We are thrilled to be signing this momentous agreement with AHS and to have our provincial board of directors witness this very important step forward,” said ANFCA President Len Morissette.

“We look forward to working with AHS to increase health outcomes for urban Indigenous people. This is a positive start on a journey between our provincial association, our community-based friendship centres, and AHS.”

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ANFCA has been a member of the AHS Indigenous Health Core Committee since its establishment in 2016. It has helped frame the AHS Indigenous Health Commitments: Roadmap to Wellness, and making sure urban Indigenous voices are present and influencing health priorities.

The agreement between AHS and ANFCA commits both organizations to the shared principles of equal partnership, mutual respect, shared learnings, and two-eyed seeing, which combines Indigenous ways of knowing and Western views, as well as championing health and wellness.

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In the past, the two organizations have worked together to support Indigenous clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting with vaccine access, as well as providing support after the 2016 Grande Prairie floods and Fort McMurray wildfires, in addition to daily interactions supporting mutual clients.

Jeanette MacInnis, acting executive director of ANFCA, said positive and authentic relationships are integral to supporting Indigenous people.

“Friendship centres have been providing programs and services to Indigenous people for over 60 years and their role in providing health programming and supportive services has been undervalued and overlooked for decades,” said MacInnis.

“ANFCA is looking forward to continuing our positive working relationship with AHS with this new relationship agreement and championing the voices of 21-member friendship centres and the communities they serve.”

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