By Kelly Anne Smith
NORTH BAY—The doors have always been open, but now the name will be more welcoming to all. The North Bay Indian Friendship Centre has been given the go-ahead to replace ‘Indian’ with ‘Indigenous’ in its title.
North Bay Indian Friendship Centre (NBIFC) Executive Director Kathy Fortin says it happened on June 22 during the annual general meeting with board members and community members.
On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will be changing the day’s name to National Indigenous Peoples Day. The day is celebrated to recognize the cultures, traditions, and contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples.
Fortin explains why it was so important to adopt Indigenous rather than Aboriginal.
“The reason for wanting Indigenous is that it incorporates everyone, meaning not just Aboriginal people, but also the Inuit and the Métis.”
Fortin at first thought that the name changing process would be quite expensive. She later found resources at the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).
“I contacted the OFIFC. They guided me through to find the proper information. We have to submit an application which will be a minimal cost to process,” stated Fortin. “All of our letterhead is electronic, so changing that wouldn’t cost us a lot. Then we have to get the corporate stamp switched over and contact anyone we’ve made a contract with. The cost is not nearly as much as people anticipated.”
Fortin says that the general response from the public has been positive with people being pleased with the announcement.
“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback. A lot of the youth said it’s about time,” recalled Fortin. “It’s important to them that we are called something other than Indian. They never really liked that name. Many people commented that we should have done it a long time ago. Some asked why it was ever called the Indian Friendship Centre.”
The executive director says the name change involved a whole process at the Friendship Centre.
“We have to include our membership in on the decision making, who are our stakeholders. So that took a little time to move forward to the membership. So we planned to make the change during our AGM thinking it would be a great time to do it.”
Fortin is hoping the name change will take place in the fall.
“It will take a couple of months to get the application in,” noted Fortin. “And it will only be one word that’s changing on the signs.”
The North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre aims to improve the quality of life for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit community members – offering education, employment, youth, family, health and legal programs.