Sept. 30 is the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, recognizing the tragic legacy of residential schools and the survivors of these institutions.
The North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre (IFC), an organization that provides a wide array of programs and services to support Indigenous people of all ages, is hosting a community event to promote and support healing, education and Indigenous cultures here locally.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the NBIFC office (980 Cassels St.) and will include smudging and support services, traditional foods, residential school information, drumming and singing, beading, fur harvesting and hair braiding.
The event is for everyone, says executive director Kathy Fortin.
“The biggest misconception we get is that the centre is for Indigenous people only.” Fortin says. “Everyone is welcome.”
Indeed while the mission of the NBIFC is to improve the quality of life for First Nation, Metis and Inuit people in the urban environment of North Bay, it also serves as a gathering place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Non-Indigenous people are welcome to come and learn about what we do and why,” Fortin says.
The centre is meant to be a place where Indigenous cultures are celebrated and knowledge and skills are shared.
It is also a pillar for advocacy, social justice and truth and reconciliation here in North Bay, leading and taking part in Take Back The Night marches, Overdose Awareness Day events and gatherings for survivors of the residential school system.
These initiatives help to educate community members about the issues in our society that have a particularly devastating impact on Indigenous populations.
NBIFC works to tear down the barriers that urban Indigenous peoples often face in order to improve quality of life through a cultural lens.
“We have over 30 different programs, ranging from prenatal to palliative care and everything in between,” says Fortin.
Programs available include child and youth programs, health care (nutrition, family support, drug and alcohol counselling, mental health), legal support, cultural programming, employment and housing support, educational assistance.
One project that has been keeping the centre particularly busy is the Suswin Village project. The three-story building across from the NBIFC will act as a traditional housing unit for 30 residents. Here, residents will also be provided with crisis counselling, job support, cultural services, food support and taught basic life skills in an effort to reduce housing barriers in the Nipissing region.
Projects like this are much needed in our area, as Indigenous people in North Bay make up 14 per cent of the total population, but 42 per cent of the city’s homeless population.
In addition to helping residents find safe, affordable housing, the NBIFC will also ensure its members have access to the community support they need in order to succeed.
There are ways you can support the NBIFC and its members.
“We look for volunteers to help out in regards to our special events that we host,” Fortin says. This is a great opportunity to help out and become immersed in our local Indigenous communities.
To learn more about the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and its upcoming programs, events and initiatives, click here.