Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am first going to begin my presentation by offering my executive director Peter Dinsdale's regrets for not being able to be here. Unfortunately, he was called out of town.
I want to also acknowledge and recognize the territory of the Algonquin Nation that we're on, and respectfully say it's an honour to be here to present before the committee.
I am a proud Maliseet First Nation person from New Brunswick, from the Tobique Reserve. It's also the home of my first cousin Sandra Lovelace.
I want to start the presentation by saying that the National Association of Friendship Centres is a non-profit aboriginal organization that represents the views and concerns of 120 friendship centres and seven provincial and territorial associations across Canada. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for aboriginal peoples in an urban environment by supporting self-determined activities that encourage equal access to and participation in Canadian society, and which respect and strengthen the increasing emphasis on aboriginal cultural distinctiveness.
The National Association of Friendship Centres partners with the Department of Canadian Heritage in delivering priority federal programs to Canada's urban population. Through the 120 friendship centres across the country we administer over $100 million in programs and services, in partnership with federal, territorial, provincial, and municipal governments. In 2008 friendship centres provided over 1.3 million services to aboriginal Canadians across the country, with a total cost of approximately $93 million.
In October of last year we were able to bring together representatives from our provincial and territorial associations. We met here in Ottawa to discuss and examine what was going on with the McIvor case at the time. Through the discussions and dialogue of that day, our representatives were able to discuss the broader citizenship issues, and these need to be examined. The friendship centre movement sees the need to support first nations in developing criteria for citizenship and membership.
Recommendations flowed from that meeting and we presented these to the federal government. The first one is that the federal government and first nations should engage in a thorough process that will ameliorate gender discrimination in the Indian Act and seek solutions to redress historic exclusion and alienation of eligible aboriginal people from obtaining their first nations status, citizenship, and membership. The second recommendation was that any changes to definitions, criteria, and eligibility standards for first nations status, citizenship, and membership be compliant with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Third was that any changes to federal legislation and other instruments pertaining to first nations status, citizenship, and membership account for international covenants and declarations pertaining to indigenous peoples and to human rights. And the fourth was that friendship centres be compensated for work they will be required to provide pertaining to the new amendments so that these organizations are not adversely affected by the required legislative changes.
Regarding the implementation issues of the McIvor case, with Bill C-31 we saw an onslaught of new registrants and challenges. While it's projected that there are 45,000 potential new registrants, we know there will be many more times that number who will approach friendship centres for information on how to apply. Friendship centres will be heavily engaged by clients at all local levels. INAC staff need to work with these agencies and train local people for the questions to come.
On the issues that we've identified as being related to this, they include nationhood, citizenship, membership, and acknowledgment of urban identity, which imply increased demand for services and the need to facilitate first nation access.
That's my presentation.