Friendship centre being established in St. George’s and Stephenville

Published on July 16, 2017

Members of the Bay St. George Cultural Circle are seen in this file photo during an event to officially pass over the former United Church in St. George’s to the cultural circle. The building is now receiving status as The Friendship Center for the Bay St. George area.

©File photo

The Bay St. George Cultural Center in St. George’s now has approval for registration as an Indigenous Friendship Centre and hopes to have a second site in Stephenville.

The current centre in Shallop Cove, which was once the United Church for St. George’s, is the initial cultural centre but Patrick Park-Tighe, who has been selected as the executive director for the centre said they are also looking for a physical presence in Stephenville for administration offices.

However, the second component of the centre in Stephenville is not expected to be in place until sometime in September.

Park-Tighe’s position begins in the next couple of weeks as he works towards the establishment of the centre.

He said at the start, organizers will be looking at basic things to get up and running, from staffing issues to getting telephones and other equipment installed.

Park-Tighe said the important thing is to look to the community to see what types of services and supports people are looking for in the centre.

He said these centres are not affiliated with indigenous bands, like the Qalipu band here in Newfoundland and its open to all people, whether status of non-indigenous.

The first one in the country was established back in 1972 and now there are more than 120 across Canada.

Friendship Centres are non-profit charity organizations that deliver service to Indigenous people that have moved from a rural setting to an urban area.

Park-Tighe said of the centres across Canada, they are all unique in what they offer, so that is why they want to talk to the community before they shape what their center is going to be all about.

“Our doors will be open to anyone wanting to avail of the services that we will offer,” Park-Tighe said.

He said the centre is devoid of politics and is there for the people.

Park-Tighe said while St. George’s is a rural setting in itself, the Friendship Centre will be located there because it was always the dream of those of those using the cultural circle to work towards obtaining Friendship Centre status.

“The cultural circle was the building block that started the whole process and will play an integral role as the process moves forward,” he said.

He said despite that it would be more convenient for people from somewhere on the Port au Port Peninsula wanting services to get them in a closer location like Stephenville and that’s the reason for the satellite office.

“We’re really trying to find a balance,” he said.

He said while core funding for the Friendship Centre will come from the federal government, filtered through the National Association of Friendship Centres, there are also urban partnership programs through which local centres develop their own partnerships.

Park-Tighe, who is from Ontario, has been in the Bay St. George area for more than a decade. He has 25 years of experience working with non-profit organizations in family and children services, education, mental health and addictions and with the justice department.

He is 49 years of age and a resident of Piccadilly on the Port au Port Peninsula.