AHS renews agreement with Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association

January 28, 2023

EDMONTON – Today Alberta Health Services (AHS) signed a new three-year agreement to continue its long-standing, collaborative partnership with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association (ANFCA).

The agreement defines collaborative ideas and areas of focus to build on an already strong working relationship between the two organizations that share the same goal: to improve access to culturally safe healthcare and health outcomes for Indigenous people.

“This partnership is part of our larger commitment to ensuring positive health outcomes and access to culturally safe healthcare for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples,” says Jason Copping, Minister of Health. “By creating meaningful relationships and listening to our Indigenous communities, we are confident that we can create partnerships that improve the health and wellness of Indigenous Peoples who reside in Alberta and we can do it together.”

ANFCA is mandated to support 21 member friendship centres across the province. These autonomous centres respond to needs as identified by the communities they serve; the range of programs and services offered varies greatly and includes, but is not limited to, accredited alternative schools, daycares, youth centres, employment programs, homeless shelters, cultural camps, socio-economic, health promotion and prevention and life skills programs.

“For many years, we have worked together with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Associaton to decrease barriers and build trust with Indigenous clients,” says Mauro Chies, interim AHS President and CEO.

“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.”

Indigenous worldviews prioritize relationships and inter-connectivity, and knowing this creates opportunities to work together. The agreement between AHS and ANFCA commits both organizations to these shared principles: equal partnership, mutual respect, shared learnings, two-eyed seeing (combining Indigenous ways of knowing and Western views) and championing health and wellness.

The ANFCA has been an important member of the AHS Indigenous Health Core Committee since its establishment in 2016. Its voice has been important in framing the AHS Indigenous Health Commitments: Roadmap to Wellness, and making sure urban Indigenous voices are present and influencing health priorities.

In the past, the two organzations have worked together to support Indigenous clients during the pandemic, helping them access vaccines, as well as providing support after the 2016 Grande Prairie floods and Fort McMurray wildfires. This is in addition to the daily interactons to support mutal clients.

“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. Friendship centres play an important role in the health and well-being of Indigenous people residing in our 21 friendship centre communities across the province,” says 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.”

ANFCA acting Executive Director Jeanette MacInnis says positive and authentic relationships are integral to supporting urban Indigenous people.

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

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait-times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.