New funding for Indigenous led initiative will equip youth with skills training


TORONTO, August 1, 2019 - The Indigenous Friends Association, an initiative designed by York University students to connect and support Indigenous youth, will be receiving funding  of more than $350,000 by the Government of Canada under the Canada Service Corps program.

The investment will equip 120 First Nations, Inuit, Métis and non-Indigenous youth with the skills and training required to reduce  employment and education gaps in technology, all while engaging a process of reconciliation through collaborative learning and civic engagement.

The project will be led and implemented by the Indigenous community of York in partnership with YWCA Canada and Digital Justice Lab. Local partnerships have been developed in Ontario with Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Elephant Thoughts, Mikinaak, and in Saskatchewan with the YWCA Regina, North Central Hacker Dojo, West Flat Citizens Group.

Judy Sgro, Member of Parliament for Humber River — Black Creek announced the Government of Canada’s contribution to this project today, in Toronto.  “I’m pleased to express my support of the wonderful energy exhibited by the students of York University in the launch of this new project. The Indigenous Friends Association is showcasing an entirely new approach for a new century, new digital workplace, and new generations to come. I am grateful for this new opportunity to expand Indigenous learning and encourage this cultural education endeavor,” said Sgro.

“York University is committed to placing Indigenous Knowledge, Cultures and Peoples at the core of our teaching, research and creative activities,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “This project is a wonderful example of student initiative, collaboration and teamwork that supports the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through co-creating innovative technological projects.”

Through various partnerships, individuals under 30 will be provided with skills training in three phases with the goal of supporting the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through co-creating innovative technological projects.

Phase I: Community outreach and participants’ recruitment.

Phase II: A boot camp and 4 practical technical courses.

Phase III: Co-creation and implementation of community action projects.

Announced by York in April 2018, the Indigenous Friends Platform started as a mobile social networking tool, created by students as a collaborative space to access traditional counselling, social networks, events calendars, and community resources. From the onset, the app was developed with the guidance of the Indigenous community at York – Elders, students, faculty, and Aboriginal Student Association staff.

“This funding will help us develop the technical skills required for youth to participate in community service opportunities and culturally diverse initiatives,” said Alejandro Mayoral-Banos, a PhD candidate who leads the project and serves as the Executive Director of The Indigenous Friends Association, a non-profit set up by the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic. “It is truly an initiative developed by Indigenous peoples, for an Indigenous and non-Indigenous audience. I look forward to its continued growth.”

The Indigenous Friends Association is currently developing and expanding the mobile app in other postsecondary institutions in Ontario. This new funding opportunity will help increase the initiative’s impact in other provinces through the implementation of novel approaches in educational program development for digital tech education.

York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Through cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design, diverse experiential learning and a supportive community environment, our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact: Yanni Dagonas, York University Media Relations,