Native Friendship Centre of Montreal: New relationships and opportunities for collaboration in urban communities

For a little over a year, the Canadian Red Cross has continuously reinforced its support to Indigenous communities whose lives, like those of many other Canadians, have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drumsticks laying on a large drum sitting on the floorThanks to funding from Indigenous Services Canada, via First Nations and Inuit Health Branch and in collaboration with the First Nations Health Managers Association, the Canadian Red Cross launched a Help Desk to support Indigenous community leaders prepare for and respond to COVID-19. Here is how the Help Desk made it possible to help one of these leaders.

Towards the end of October 2020, the Help Desk team received a call from Brett Pineau, Director of the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal (NFCM), a non-profit whose principal mission is to improve the quality of life of Montreal’s urban Indigenous community.

“Many of our beneficiaries are lacking in basic supplies, which was made more acute through job losses and shutdowns of major sectors of the economy,” says Brett.

NFCM’s beneficiaries include Indigenous people who are homeless or precariously housed and who are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their basic needs due to the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of several shelters.

The Red Cross Emergency Management team in Quebec was engaged and, along with Brett, worked to identify the most urgent needs that the Red Cross would be able to meet. Within 48 hours of the first call, more than a hundred blankets were delivered to the centre. In mid-December, the Red Cross in Quebec offered another hundred blankets to further support NFCM.

“The response was prompt and professional with genuine commitment and concern for beneficiaries and the communities in which they operate. We would not hesitate to call upon the Red Cross for future emergency situations in terms of the critically important and valuable role they play,” notes Brett.

Following delivery, the blankets were given out to people in need by the Ka'wáhse Street Patrol and by the Kaie:ri:nikawera:ke Day Centre staff directly on-site.

Friendship Centres have an important role in supporting Indigenous peoples in urban centres. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal implemented several additional measures in response to the pandemic to help address urgent needs, including a new food security initiative and increased focus on mobile services for those adversely impacted by physical distancing, especially elders and families with young children.

The Red Cross is honoured to have been entrusted by Brett to support the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal and those they help.
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