Bike Ride across Canada for Native Friendship Centre of Montreal
Gordon Bird, who is also known as Circle Dancing Eagle, is currently biking across Canada on behalf of the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal. The organization’s elected vice-president left Montreal on May 23 and has now reached West Vancouver, British Columbia.*
“I am hoping to bring awareness to the situation that put NFCM in a very critical financial situation,” said Bird, via a Facebook chat. “The doors were going to close for good at the end of June this year. That has been averted by an understanding that came from the Minister of Northern Affairs and partial funds have been reinstated. This is positive news.”
The status of the 38-year-old centre was jeopardized when an ongoing disagreement with the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (RCAAQ) led to its core funding being cut.
The organization responded with a $500,000 funding drive, which Bird’s trip will help support. Donors receive tax receipts since the organization has held federal charitable status under the number 125109991RR0001 since 1996.
Meanwhile, the RCAAQ is busy looking for another Aboriginal Institution to deliver youth programs in Montreal even though the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal still offers youth programs.
“We are now finalizing scenarios in order to identify an institutional Aboriginal partner that will agree to sponsor the Montreal youth project,” writes RCAAQ president Edith Cloutier on their website. “The RCAAQ will involve the Inter-Tribal Youth Centre of Montreal in this decision.”
The disagreement has roots in a three-year agreement between the two groups that was signed in 2007.
When the agreement was due to end in 2010, the RCAAQ brought a consulting firm in to help the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal with strategic planning. They also continued funding the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal under the terms of the 2007 to 2010 agreement.
“Normally, when you have an extension or renewal, both parties have to sign off on it and we didn’t do that,” said Brett Pineau, Executive Director of the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal. “We’re the only centre in Quebec with a clean financial audit and we’re the only one in which the executive director has an MBA. They were tying our core funding installments to dealing with a particular consulting firm with privileged relationship to the RCAAQ.”
Discussions remained internal to the two partners until September 15, when the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal sent a complaint to the RCAAQ’s federal counterpart with a carbon copy to their then federal funder, the Department of Canadian Heritage.
That letter led the board of the RCAAQ to suspend the provincial membership of the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal on September 21. It then recommended that the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) remove all core funding Montreal and distribute it among the remaining Quebec centres two months later.
The Native Friendship Centre of Montreal responded with a formal complaint to the NAFC Commission in December.
On February 3, Commission Chair Paul Lacerte sent a letter requesting both parties attend a Dispute Resolution Process panel.
Twelve days later Pineau received a letter telling him that the RCAAQ board refused to participate. “We’re still hoping that the Feds will be concerned enough that the collapse of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism will merit intervention.”
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Notes: This article appeared on p 15 of the Suburban city edition on June 6, 2012.
*Gord had only reached London, Ontario when this article was first written.