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News | Quebec invests $100,000 in Indigenous homeless refuge

Making homelessness a priority by educating non-Indigenous people

The Quebec Provincial government has granted a $100,000 endowment towards Projet Autochtones du Québec (PAQ), a non-profit organization serving the homeless First Nations and Inuit populations of Montreal. PAQ aims to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities by promoting the social and professional development of the former.

The government’s financial support is part of a provincial initiative called “Mobilisés et engagés pour prévenir et réduire l’itinérance” (“Mobilized and engaged to prevent and reduce homelessness” in English), which began in 2015. Aside from the PAQ grant, this programme has also granted another $60,000 to combat homelessness, though it is unclear which organisations received this money. In 2015-2016, the PAQ additionally received a grant of $189,766 from another provincial government program which aims to support community organizations.

“People who recognize the importance of homelessness and [are] able to do the kind of social development that’s needed – I think that’s marvelous!”

In a phone interview with The Daily, Chief Christine Zachary-Deom of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke expressed her approval of the grant, stressing the urgency of the homelessness problem, not just in Montreal, but across Canada.

“Homelessness is a priority,” she said. “The fact that [the PAQ has] done this kind of work, and the detailed work that they’ve done shows that [their funding] is well-used. […] People who recognize the importance of homelessness and [are] able to do the kind of social development that’s needed – I think that’s marvelous!”

“We need to be able to feel some measure of security no matter where we are, and if we’re highlighted because of who we are, and we’re made to be vulnerable, then I think we have to do more to protect ourselves.”

Chief Zachary-Deom also emphasized the importance of institutionalized programs to ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous populations – in particular, of Indigenous women, who have been subject to extreme systemic marginalization and violence in Canada.

“There really have to be protections, and those protections have to come […] through cooperation with Indigenous organizations, to [ensure that] security can be found for women who are on the street. […] We need to be able to feel some measure of security no matter where we are, and if we’re highlighted because of who we are, and we’re made to be vulnerable, then I think we have to do more to protect ourselves,” she elaborated.

“It requires such an incredible education [of non-Indigenous people] in terms of being able to protect [Indigenous] people on the street,” Chief Zachary-Deom continued. “And I mean just walking on the street – going about their business and being harassed and harangued and pushed around.”

Leslie Anne St. Amour, SSMU’s Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, also stressed the responsibility to educate oneself on the issue of Indigenous homelessness, and, more generally, on the lived experiences and collective histories of Indigenous Canadians.

“It requires such an incredible education [of non-Indigenous people] in terms of being able to protect [Indigenous] people on the street.”

“I think it’s important for non-Indigenous folks to educate themselves about Indigenous peoples, histories, and realities because our public education system is often failing them by not including it,” St. Amour wrote in an email to The Daily.

St. Amour sees this lack of education manifest itself at McGill University regularly. “During my time at McGill, I was shocked again and again by how little McGill students knew about the Indigenous histories and realities taking place around them. Students need to take the time to hear what Indigenous students, staff and faculty have been saying for years at McGill and recognize their place in the ongoing activism.”

“McGill students have a great deal of privilege solely due to attending McGill, let alone any other privileges they may have, and they can use that privilege to share what they learn and to encourage others to learn and to support Indigenous activism in whatever way Indigenous communities need them.”

St. Amour concluded her email by highlighting the opportunities McGill students have, and how they can use those opportunities to support Indigenous activism.

“McGill students have a great deal of privilege solely due to attending McGill, let alone any other privileges they may have, and they can use that privilege to share what they learn and to encourage others to learn and to support Indigenous activism in whatever way Indigenous communities need them,” she concluded.


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