Indigenous Friendship Centre returning to Winnipeg

Click to play video: 'New Indigenous Friendship Centre in Winnipeg'
New Indigenous Friendship Centre in Winnipeg
Plans for affordable housing will cap off the construction of a new Indigenous Friendship Centre in Winnipeg. – Apr 6, 2023

A friendship centre serving the needs of Indigenous people will return to Winnipeg, nearly five years after closing its doors.

The facility, which will now be known as the Winnipeg Indigenous Friendship Centre, will be resurrected on the same spot it used to stand on 45 Robinson Street when it was known as the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre.

“The journey with the Indian Metis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg has given so much to this community over so many years, and now we are able to continue that journey,
and more importantly, strengthen that journey,” said Damon Johnston, part of the centre’s board of directors.

The original centre opened in 1957, before closing in 2018 due to financial problems.

The old building will be demolished later this month and the group is pursuing capital funding to help fund the rebuilding of the centre.

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A phased approach will be taken, with office spaces and drop-in centres first to be constructed, followed by a larger community centre and a bingo hall, and then an elders’ residence as the final step.

CEO of the Winnipeg Indigenous Friendship Centre Rachel Sansregret says activities will begin before the new centre is built.

“We are going to engage our youth, elders and all community members in land-based education that will be centred on Indigenous culture and holistic healing,” Sansregret said.

Executive Director of Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre Inc. Tammy Christensen says it’s because of the collective effort of the Winnipeg Executive Indigenous Council, featuring 32 Indigenous led organizations, along with 11 organizations part of the Indigenous Vision for the North End Coalition, that helped bring this vision to life.

“Our urban community has long expressed how much they’ve missed the centre as a place to gather and a place to access a hub of resources,” Christensen said.

Johnston says a friendship centre plays a key role in the community.

“What friendship centres truly represent in anywhere they are located is opportunity for First Nations, Metis, Inuit. A place to go, a place to see your friends and make new friends and to truly be in a place that is so important, that it’s important to all,” Johnston said.

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“They provide a venue for our children and youth to come together with elders. We’re trying to restore aspects of our culture that were damaged.”

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