“This is something we really need in our community and have been looking at for quite some time,” explained Poundmaker’s Lodge Executive Director Brad Cardinal. “Historically, Poundmaker’s did have an outpatient centre (in Edmonton) but because of funding cutbacks we had to close our doors. Now, as a result of this wonderful partnership, we have the ability to reopen. Many of our people are suffering with addictions; we want to be able to reach out to them and this initiative will help us identify and assist those who need it. We know that it’s going to save lives; we know it’s going to create health and wellness for our Aboriginal people.”
“It is an exciting day for the Friendship Centre,” smiled CNFC Executive Director, Merle White. “Together we have more than 90 years of combined experience providing services to our community. This new outpatient office will assist clients who are struggling with addictions problems and hopefully help them seek the help they need to overcome their misfortunes.”
The Open House, which attracted several dozen Elders, other participants and onlookers, got underway in mid-afternoon when PLTC Councillor Robert Johnson offered a short prayer, blessed the food and enlightened the gathering about its significance in Aboriginal culture. He noted that food relates not just to sustenance for the body, “but is important to many cultural activities and ceremonies and to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being and the health and wellness of every individual.
CNFC Elder Ann Magnusson is a residential school survivor originally from the Tsimshian First Nation near Prince Rupert. She’s made her home in Edmonton for more than 48 years and has been an Elder on the CNFC’s Board of Directors for the past couple of years. Offering a prayer and words of praise for the new Outpatient Centre, she stated: “This is truly a remarkable day; I feel blessed, happy and very honoured to be involved in this new and meaningful partnership with Poundmaker’s Lodge and I look forward to the progress that lies ahead.”
Several in attendance talked about addictions and the fact they’d overcome them. One of these was 20 year old Courtney Aubichon, who said she “hit rock bottom” two years ago when, addicted to alcohol and methamphetamines, her foster-mom threw her out of the house.
“I got myself addicted to alcohol and drugs when I was just 14 years old,” she said in a short address to those in attendance. “In September 2013 I entered Poundmaker’s 90 Day Program and later entered Poundmaker’s Esquao Lodge for Women. My life has really changed for the better. The 90 Day Program really had an impact on me and at the Esquao Lodge I came to realize that there is hope; there is something good out there for me. It helped me to understand that I can be the woman I want to be – the confident, smart, self-confident Aboriginal woman the Creator wants me to be. I returned to school, I recently moved into a new apartment and I am working towards my degree as an addictions counsellor at Norquest College. I am very grateful to Poundmaker’s and the programs I was involved in; they have made a very big difference in my life and I will always be grateful. Just having a place where you can come and let loose and have support and have people who care really encourages sobriety and a better way of life. I am here today and I am sober today because of the support I received. I am confident that this new partnership will enable others to do what I have done – get sober.”
The room for the Treatment Centre, which has been nicely decorated to ensure client comfort and privacy, will be overseen by Head Counsellor Elaine Taylor. The office will be open two days a week and will include the participation of social workers, therapists, psychologists and Aboriginal Elders. They, along with CNFC staff, will help those in need with cultural programs and referral services for such things as counselling, treatment programs and access to the food bank.
Little more than a month before the opening of the new outpatient office CNFC Executive Director Merle White contacted Brad Cardinal to talk about a possible partnership that would allow better access for those seeking help with drug and alcohol addictions to healing programs.
“Our movement,” explained White, “means assisting urban Aboriginal people to achieve a better quality of life. Because there are so many friendship centres across Canada we have become the first access for Aboriginal people when they come into the city. Many people who contact us are seeking access to services and we are usually able to provide them with a referral. The numbers of people coming to us and asking for assistance and referrals has grown in recent times. There are other resources out there, but sometimes a new approach is needed. We appreciate and utilize many of the resources that are available, but sometimes because of the historical trauma facing many of those who come here (CNFC), individuals feel more comfortable talking to people of their own culture. The hurt that many of our people carry with them comes from an institutional setting and as a result they’ve told us that they want to work towards sobriety and rid themselves of substance abuse in a setting that embraces their own culture. I had an idea how we could help so I contacted Brad, who immediately saw the value of a joint initiative; within a month or so we were able to open the Outpatient Office. The feedback has been tremendous.”
Brad Cardinal lauded the partnership and spoke about its intent.
“We needed to create an open door for our Aboriginal people and that is being achieved through the creation of this partnership,” he said. “We are very pleased the partnership has been endorsed by the Elders in our community and so know we are headed in the right direction. We believe that our people will utilize this new service and we hope we’ll be able to alleviate some of the stresses they face on a day-to-day basis. We certainly need to thank Merle White for reaching out his hand and offering to help us create this partnership. We’ll have a counsellor on site during outpatient hours to handle referrals and grief counselling and referrals to (CNFC) services if they are required. We hope that you will share this information with the community; by working together we can achieve great things.”
A sharing of gifts between Cardinal and White was followed up by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding created by the two organizations.
“We’d like this to be the start of something new, something refreshing,” noted White. “We need to see other organizations get involved and help us make a positive difference in the lives of Aboriginal people living in the Capital Region. We will also be contacting the city and the province to see what they can do to get involved.”
For more information contact the CNFC at 780-761-1900 or call Poundmaker’s Lodge at 780-458-1884.