Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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Val D’Or

(by Isabeau Duhaime-Moffat)

Those who think Val-d’Or in Abitibi-Témiscamingue is “up north” are wrong.  For the James Bay Crees, Val-d’Or is situated south of everything.  For them, Val-d’Or is the major urbanized town, the place they go to shop and get health services.  For them, Val-d’Or is a meeting place.  30 years ago, the Native Friendship Centre in Val-d’Or was open and since then the staff of the centre has been working to promote harmonious relations between Natives and non-Natives communities.  Those Natives communities are taking a bigger part in Val-d’Or’s economic and cultural life, with several projects to help forge better intercultural relations.

 

           

            The Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2004.  30 years of promoting better understanding between Natives and non-Natives communities, 30 years of working to improve the quality of life and the well being of Native people in Val-d’Or.  Although there are several friendship centres in the country, Val-d’Or is the only one who deals with several communities.  The members of the centre are not only Crees, but also Algonquins, and Atikamekw, which brought several challenges.  The centre also lists the respect and promotion of Native culture as one of its missions.  But beyond the mission, the centre really has an impact for all the communities involved. As a non-political voice that speaks about social issues of the Cree and Algonquin communities, the Centre has a lot of credibility, and may be heard better by the government, than the various Band Councils. People in Val-d’Or, not only Natives, but non-Natives as well see the centre as a useful and necessary service. 

 

 

            The Friendship Centre provides several different services, from awareness activities on suicide, AIDS, drug abuse, compulsive gambling and diabetes to the March Against Racism (over 800 participants in 2004) and the National Aboriginal Day celebrations on June 21st.   Throughout the year, the Centre also organizes activities to promote intergenerational relations.  There is also the Health Liaison Service, which provides transportation by air or land for Urban Aboriginal patients as well as coordinating the appointments with the health facilities professionals.  A person only needs to confirm an appointment 24 hours in advance (unless it’s an emergency).  The Centre provides a childcare center that welcomes 80 children, half of them non-Natives.  Since all the employees of the childcare centre are Natives, most of the activities focus on the aboriginal culture, traditional stories and the arts and crafts of the different communities.   The children grow up knowing about different cultures, they learn to have a more open mind and it seems that all the children and their parents are really happy with the service.  One of the objectives of the Centre is to help young people to integrate to white culture, encourage them to find work, go to school and give them a chance to have a better future.  Several of the programs that the Centre offers are focused on the youth and it seems to be working well. The Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre has 65 employees, 70 % of them Native and a big majority of women.

 

 

            The centre has proved that people in Val-d’Or want to have a better sense of community.  It may not always be easy but people do try to have better relations with the Natives living in town and the people from the Centre are doing their best to help not only the Natives to adapt to the White way of life, but also to help non-Natives to understand the Natives’ traditional customs.                              

Lists of Sources

 

Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre Annual activity reports 2004-2005

 

 

 

Le cahier du centre/the centre’s notebook, vol 23. No1, January 2005