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Barrie Native Friendship Centre: Making a Difference to Indigenous People for Over 30 Years

On February 8, Samantha Kinoshameg, the Executive Director of the Barrie Native Friendship Centre, gave a presentation on the history and impact of the friendship centre movement. It began in the 1950s in urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. 

Kinoshameg spoke highly of the contribution this centre has made to her, her family and the Indigenous community in Barrie. “I love the movement. I love what it’s done for myself growing up, and I love what it’s able to do for my family.”

She shared her family’s history with the residential schools. “My dad went by as well as my uncle and my grandmother. So we have quite an interesting family history with it.” She uncle was involved with North American Indian Club in Toronto, one of the first friendship centres. He was also “involved in the housing developments in Toronto.”

The Barrie Native Friendship Centre was established and incorporated in 1988. Initially, it was entirely volunteer-driven and provided community children’s programs and cultural teachings. The centre has been housed in its current building on Bayfield Street since 1993. 

Samantha discussed Indigenous terminology, family, and community connections. She also talked about the various programs that the Centre offers such as youth programs, long care programs, Indigenous Bail Supervision Program, Restorative Justice Diversion program, and health outreach and promotion programs.

Samantha concluded that the center not only focuses on physical health, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. 

“These are some of the things we talk about when we talk holistic – a relationship, the reciprocity and respect,” she said. 

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