Winter 2019 / 2020
“We have been given some very important tools in this life’s journey
to help us remain focused, strong and at peace.
They are the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
We are so lucky to have them.
Power, Peace and Love to all our Sisters and Brothers”.
Measures Taken to Keep Our Healing Community Healthy and Safe During COVID-19 Crisis
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Coronavirus Crisis) around the world, keeping all members (residents and staff) of Waseskun Healing Community healthy and safe is our top priority. We are glad to share that at this time we have no actual or presumptive cases of virus infection amongst residents or staff and we are committed to doing our best for keeping it that way
Extra stringent and strict sanitary practices and procedures have been put in place, with educational sessions for residents and staff for their proper and successful enactment. Special procedures are being followed by all staff members to help ensure that they do not bring the virus into our community. We are fully stocked up with extra food, cleaning and sanitation materials, and medical and emergency supplies.
Daily updates on the situation from across Quebec and Canada, CSQ and CSC, are being received and transmitted to residents. Waseskun is working closely with CSC medical services for updates, advice, and readiness for support and services should someone become sick. We are practicing open and transparent communication between staff and residents and are encouraging good cooperation amongst all community members.
A Residents’ Committee has been created to help inform, support and monitor the Coronavirus situation and put ideas forth for additional steps and measures for keeping our Community healthy and safe. New community duties and practices have been introduced for adapting to this crisis and maintaining health and safety.
Waseskun has made it a priority to maintain regular services and activities where possible. Residents and staff have full mobility within our community (following the sanitary measures and new procedures that have been implemented). Though, we are limiting person to person contact wherever possible and restricting groups to a maximum size of ten individuals for any program or activity, so as to maintain a two-metre distance between people. Staff members are very aware and sensitive to residents’ worries about family at home and are doing their best to facilitate communications with them and offer support with empathy and understanding.
Everyone at Waseskun is working together as a Community to get through this crisis. We wish good health and well-being to all.
CHRISTMAS AT WASESKUN
By: Kenneth B.
Christmas at Waseskun is always an exciting time of year. There are several events and activities that take place so that the residents feel as though they are in a home environment. It is also a good opportunity to give the residents a rest from the intensive programming. and to recover from the institutionalizing effects of Christmases spent in prison.
Waseskun staff make huge efforts and personal contributions of time and money because they know that some of the residents have never experienced a good Christmas, or, in fact, have only memories of bad ones. This is a particularly difficult time of year for anyone who suffers from drugs or alcohol abuse.
All the events were structured by volunteers in the community so that things ran smoothly, and all of the residents had fun. Some residents headed the organization of the events while others provided logistical support.
Hockey Shoot Out !
The shootout tested the skills of the resident hockey players to see who was up to snuff. The top athletes turned out and the pucks were flying! First place went to Donaven M.
Crib Tournament !
Crib is a card game for the lucky and the strategic. All the players brought their ‘A’ game and the turnout was good with approximately half the residents playing. Curtis G. was the big winner.
Movies and Popcorn !
On Christmas Eve we watched a double feature — Joker and Ad Astra. Normand (Helper) was not only kind enough to provide them but purchased refreshments from the canteen at intermission. The next day we watched Men In Black: International also courtesy of some staff members and they provided the buttered popcorn so the guys had lots to munch on.
The Chinese Auction !
This is a game where everybody participates because it is just that much fun. Two staff members played an integral part of this event. This involves buying and wrapping gifts so that each person gets something. All gifts are different, and the trick is to get the gift you desire by stealing it from your competitor. In the end everybody wins! The fun is not knowing what gift you will end up with. The one thing for sure is that everybody really loves this game.
Horse Races !
All the residents participated in this game as well. No actual horses were harmed in the making of this event. This is a dice game that uses large wooden substitutes and a very large grid taped off on the floor. Over twelve rounds of nail-biting dice rolls were done, and
the winners were all by a nose.
One of our residents did a great job as the MC and caller, keeping things interesting by using unique card layouts.
One of our residents did a great job as the MC and caller, keeping things interesting by using unique card layouts.
Scavenger Hunt !
This game was put together by a resident., who went through a lot of effort in order to make sure that it was not only hard but that we got lots of exercise. Players ran all over to solve the skill testing riddles. Everybody lost 10 pounds from all the running!
Chess Tournament ! The game of the intellectuals. These players are the best of the best, some of which play and beat computers! Daryle K. was victorious but accepted his prize with great humility.
Poker Tournament !
This is a game for the bluffers and the wise! When to stop and when to go all in! This is not a game for the faint of heart. When you play here with experienced men it could be good training for poker millions! After many hands David A. proved himself to be Waseskun’s champion.
In closing, this was a great holiday for everybody, and all the residents would like to thank the staff for making the events possible and for giving us time to reenergize before the next programming session. I would also like to thank all the Elders and Helpers for being here for one-on-one counseling during this difficult time of year.
YOGA CREE STYLE
By: David A.
My name is David, and I am taking part in a new yoga program that was recently introduced at Waseskun. It is my first-time taking yoga classes. I have to admit, it has been a really good experience thus far. I like the focus on the breathing techniques that are closely related to each movement. The ability to learn how to control my breathing has many beneficial factors. Throughout my life, I have had problems with my anger and all the thoughts that go with it, as I tend to let things build up. But learning how to take a controlled, focused breath has allowed me to bring my feelings and anger down quickly in a good manner
So, a few times a day I practice my controlled breathing in silence when I am sitting in group or when I am doing a work project. When I hear negativity of any kind, I simply tune into my breathing and I get more control of myself and really my overall life. I still practice all the many different yoga poses twice a day. This really wakes up my body, mind and spirit. I breathe with my movements in a controlled manner and I get a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Today I am a lot calmer and my overall attitude is positive. Plus, my sleeping is more restful and relaxed. I am grateful to have taken the opportunity to sign up for the yoga classes. At first when I was signing up I thought, well it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. It turned out to be a really amazing experience. I am totally hooked. (smile) I wish I would have tried this years ago. I would have saved myself a lot of problems.
I wish this was offered in all prisons as a part of the programs. Yoga is an ancient practice. Today, I am convinced that this ancient practice can be applied to my inner healing journey. I never thought I would be practicing and applying yoga in my daily life. But that’s how the creator works … give it a small chance, you just never know.
Anyone who has worked with hides knows that the smell can be very pungent and strong. That’s one of the reasons Waseskun has built a shed specifically for the preparation and tanning of hides. The other reasons are the importance of learning traditional skills, hide-tanning being a key one that can also be very useful back home in the communities, as well being a source of generating income. Construction of the hide shed started at the end of August, and the building was in operation by the Fall. The shed measures 24’ x 16’, with extra wide barn doors, large windows, and good ventilation. The ceiling is an impressive 13’ high to accommodate extralarge drying frames. A wood stove provides heat on cold days. The shed was built entirely by community members, with experienced residents teaching construction techniques to those new to such work. Of course, as with all Waseskun building projects, the lumber was cut on site at our own sawmill from timber supplied by our friend, Ed Menard. Now the Waseskun Community has a permanent place where residents can work on a variety of hides, be they from deer, moose, coyote, bear, or other 4-legged relations, and transform them into leather, rawhide and fur, invaluable for many uses.
WASESKUN: A PATH TOWARDS HEALING
By: Nikolas Midbo *
Jacques has been receiving applications for Waseskun Healing Centre for over 16 years. As a result, he can be perceived as an expert in knowing what it takes for an individual to be successful resident at Waseskun. He offered his valuable wisdom into what he feels makes a strong candidate as well as what he feels makes Waseskun so special.
Jacques emphasized that successful applicants are individuals who are highly motivated towards changing their future for the better: “They have decided in their own mind, that they want to change their life. They want to work on their issues and traumas. They are ready to openly accept the supports offered at Waseskun and use them in their journey towards becoming a better person.” This healing path is not for the faint hearted, and each individual’s journey is inevitably filled with many obstacles. However, candidates brave enough to take the first step and walk through the doors of Waseskun do not face these challenges alone. Individuals ready for change are met with all the supports essential in facing and overcoming these obstacles triumphantly.
Jacques describes Waseskun as a healing community. This means that no person is expected to walk their healing path alone. Instead, residents are supported by both staff and their fellow Waseskun brothers every step of the way. Expert Helpers and Elders are always available to provide their wisdom, insight and guidance. This guidance is offered via The Waseya Holistic Healing Program through various Indigenous based therapeutic settings, which include talking Circles, ceremonies, one on one counseling, land teachings, drum Circles, and traditional crafts. These programs and supports are offered in both French and English. Elders and Helpers also support the resident’s spiritual development within the context of their traditional beliefs. This is often done through teachings, medicines and ceremonies. This ensures that residents are supported to grow and develop in every sphere of their identity.
Jacques also noted the importance of the peer support that is offered at Waseskun. Active peer support enables the creation of a deeply respectful environment where residents lift each other up as a collective. This environment of deep respect is evident in the many ceremonies offered such as Sweat Lodge, Pipe Ceremony, and Bear Ceremony.
Waseskun is a multicultural community and supports residents from a diverse range of Indigenous backgrounds. As a result, residents often learn from each other and openly share their diverse talents. Recent learning opportunities have included drum making workshops, soap stone carving, hide production, traditional cooking, beading, woodwork and clothing production. The diverse opportunities available allow residents to connect with not only their own culture but also the culture of others.
The benefit derived from the various supports offered at Waseskun is evident within the lives of the current and past residents of the healing community. Jacques explained that “every resident walks away with valuable growth and learning as a result of their experience.” This wide-reaching success is also made possible through the physical space and natural beauty that surrounds Waseskun.
The natural environment is an essential therapeutic element at Waseskun. The healing centre is located in St. Alphonse-Rodriguez, a small village in foothills of the Laurentians. This pristine natural environment provides a peaceful atmosphere that invites residents to find peace within their soul. Waseskun’s location also provides the opportunity for a wide range of land-based activities such as camping, and off-site ceremonies. For instance, every year Waseskun organizes a multiple day traditional fast in pristine wilderness. The location also provides unique opportunities for wildernessbased community integration. For instance, current residents routinely volunteer at the local horse ranch or buffalo farm. The facilities at Waseskun differ drastically from what is usually provided within a conventional corrections environment. The property houses a wide range of facilities including workshops, a skating rink, hide lodge, medicine lodge, ceremonial spaces, crafts pavilion, weight room, canteen, library, and classroom. Jacques also mentioned how these various elements enable residents to feel at home.
When asked what advice he had for future candidates Jacques said: “Waseskun’s door might be, for any motivated offender, the step to go through and end up in a better world. The chance is offered to all who knock at Waseskun’s door by the way of an application, and if accepted, get the desired plan for thior healing journey.”
Waseskun is ready to accept qualified candidates who are willing and ready to engage seriously in their healing. It is a place where people can open the door to a new life, they never thought possible, because everyone is entitled to a second chance.
* Nikolas was working at Waseskun as a student intern during the first few months of this year, helping out with a variety of duties around our Healing Community. Nikolas is very intelligent, knowledgeable, capable, caring, friendly and versatile with his many talents, and Waseskun was very fortunate to have had him working with us.
COMMUNITY REINTEGRATION SUPPORT TRAINING
By: John Willcocks
Waseskun welcomed representatives of the Obedjiwan community of the Atikamekw Nation and a Community Correctional Centre to a Community Reintegration Training Session from February 18 – 20. We were pleased to see that one of the participants was a former Waseskun resident who is now a social services caseworker and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in social work. The session took place at the beautiful Mshkiki Healing Centre in Saint-Didace.
The sessions were facilitated by Waseskun Elder, Dennis Nicholas. Dennis focused on topics that the participants had identified as specific concerns in their communities. In each case, he stressed the importance of ceremony and medicines to resolve conflicts and heal traumas. Ceremonies were performed to demonstrate the power and provide first-hand experiences for the participants.
On the final day, the session moved to Waseskun where the group participated in a Circle with residents. The residents shared their experiences of ceremonies during time at Waseskun and offered advice to the participants as they prepare to support men returning to their community. All who took part in the session – the guests, the residents, the trainer and staff – expressed gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to learn and share.
Community Reintegration Support Training sessions are made possible through Waseskun’s Rebuilding the Circle initiative, which is supported by the Indigenous Community Safety Development Program. Training session, accommodations and meals are provided free of charge to communities and support organizations. For more information, or to reserve a spot in upcoming sessions, contact John Willcocks, Community Development Coordinator, at (450) 883-2034, ext. 243 or email@example.com.
EAGLE VISION: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANISHINABE ELDER SOLOMON WAWATIE
By: Nikolas Midbo
On a cold winter afternoon, I had the opportunity to listen and learn from Anishinabe Elder Solomon. He defines himself as a star being whose spirit soars like a hawk. He illuminated the room with his deep wisdom, openly sharing his insight on what it means to be human. Solomon believes that our consciousness expands far beyond our material existence. In his eyes we are all eternal star beings living a human experience. This is a truth that he feels the modern world suppresses in order to subdue the true power of our consciousness, and its unlimited potential. He related how “society has led us to believe that we are only [made of] mortal material. This complicates our vision and disturbs our ability to view the world through the eyes of the eagle.”
Solomon describes eagle vision as the universal observance and recognition of all living beings. It is a way of seeing beyond our own personhood and acknowledging our interconnection and dependence on the world that surrounds us. By seeing the world beyond our own existence, we are liberated to expand our sense of self. Through redefining our sense of self, we are able to expand our capacity to have both compassion and understanding for our universal community.
Eagle vision also enables us to acknowledge the point of view held by others. This includes taking on the perspective held by the other kingdoms that inhabit Turtle Island such as the trees, fish, plants, birds and animals. Therefore, eagle vision enables us to connect to all things big and small, powerful and meek. It is through this perception beyond our sense of self that we begin to truly understand the world as well as our role within it. This universal understanding begins with the act of mindful observation.
Solomon related how western empirical knowledge and science begins with the act of observation. First peoples such as the Anishinabe have also acquired their traditional knowledge of the surrounding world through the act of mindful observation. He explained how they observed the stars, animals, and medicines. They recognize that these are beings that have come to teach us. In this respect, even traditional knowledge which is not recorded remains eternal as it is written within the living word that surrounds us.
Solomon further related how medicines such as sage and tobacco have been gifted to humans as powerful teachers. They help us on our path as we move towards remembering who we really are. He further explained how: “tobacco is the medicine that allows us to transform our pain into prayer.” The fire that ignites the medicine is a purifying element. It enables the essence of the medicine to go beyond the world that we see with our eyes. Solomon explained how our aura is the manifestation of our existence as star beings. Smudging with tobacco cleans our aura. He likened the act to taking a shower for your spirit. As we move through our lives our aura picks up unwanted gifts. Smudging helps us release these unwanted gifts so that we can become lighter. He also related how each of these medicines was given to humanity as a gift for free. Therefore, to keep these medicines pure they cannot be profited from. They must remain as a gift that is passed from the heart to the heart of the recipient. As a gift from the heart these medicines remain sacred.
INTERVIEW WITH A RESIDENT
I have been at Waseskun for more than six months already. The programs that touch me are the addictions and violence programs: these are issues that were part of my life, and they help me. I like to talk. I performed the Bear Ceremony with Elder Dennis, but there were a lot of people present and this gave me some misery. I cried out, but I didn’t feel the wellbeing afterwards. I was too tense, and I had trouble reaching inside of myself because I felt there were too many people around me and I felt uncomfortable. I like Dennis very much: he’s a person that I feel a lot of love from when I see him, and I know he wants to help. I consider that most of the folks who work here are good people who are here to help. I have participated in 4 sweats since being here. After each I felt better and lighter. I slept well on those nights.
I have become aware that addictions and violence were big parts of my life, and I have learnt that I can never again let myself consume, not even socially, because I have a problem with alcoholism and substance abuse. If I start, I won’t stop. This is clear, I have come to understand. In terms of violence, I have learnt that with good communications one can resolve problems well without threats, without punches. There is a program that one of the Helpers gives where he shows us videos of a guy who gives conferences. It’s a self-esteem program. Something I noticed is that my self-esteem was not strong when I was young. I would seek my self-esteem and confidence through violence. It was then that I would feel that I was worth something. Other than that, my confidence was weak. This is a program that I hope continues: it helps me.
Writing helps me a lot. I do a lot of writing about my life. I wrote a short piece for Waseskun’s newsletter (see pg. 37). I am proud of it. In prison, writing kept me away from negativity. Here it is the same. Other than writing, I am not someone who makes arts and crafts or masks, but I made some anyway for my daughter. I am used to buying presents for her, but I had never made her something with my hands. During a leather workshop we had here, I made her a pair of moccasins, and this helped me in working on my patience. I am an impatient man that wants everything to be fast. I took two weeks to finish the moccasins. I put in a lot of heart and lot of time. I am proud of the result. My daughter now has them at her place and she always has them on her feet when she is home. She is very happy to have them. I also made her a soapstone ring. This was also a bit of therapy: it made me work on my patience. When I had finished, I was surprised to have talents other than writing. But what is sure is that writing is what helps me most and gives me a reason to live, by working with a passion I didn’t know before. I want to write articles even if they don’t pay. It is not for the money.
I am gaining confidence. I wrote a lot of pieces and each time I read them to staff members and they always gives me good commentary and even opinions and advice. This encourages me to continue. Sometimes I lose my confidence a bit and my ideas. I read a lot and when I read books by other writers I compare. When I compare myself to them I feel less good. I won a national competition that was held across Quebec. From 545 texts I won first prize for my piece, “My Most Beautiful Story” (reprinted and translated here in this issue, pg. 24-25). After this, a well-known Quebec comedienne, Anick Lemay, recited my story in a big show that happened in Montreal. This then went on YouTube. She was acting in the way she read it. I had shivers while I listened to this. Even Jeremy, who listened to it with me said, “Wow, that’s good”. This made me very happy. My daughter was also proud of me. I am happy to show my daughter another side of me other than my tough side. I was involved with crime, that’s for sure; I went to prison for this, but I am happy that she sees other things from me. It is clear that I am in a process of transformation. Sure, I can’t change my face; I know I have a tough looking face. When someone sees me, their first impression is that I am a hard person to approach. But I feel so much better. My way of thinking has changed. Before judging someone, I reflect, and when I begin behaving how I used to behave I quite quickly become aware of it. A staff member told me that he has seen a great change from when he first saw me enter here, and this greatly encouraged me. He says that when he sees a guy who’s worth it that he’ll do everything he can to help him. This made me feel good to hear this because when someone tells you that you are worth it, one’s self-esteem and confidence gets boosted. That’s where I see the changes.
After Waseskun I have the intention to use my cards as a lift operator to get a job. Writing has kept me on a good path. I have a precise plan for this: I will buy a nice laptop and printer and with my Antidote software, I will continue to write. I plan on writing article, opinion pieces, or whatever. Even if my work doesn’t turn out to be deeply satisfying for me, writing will give me the feeling of being alive, to be someone who does something with passion. I have already been out on Day Parole. I started working and I’d come home and watch TV or play my PlayStation. My life was dull. It was such a drag that I felt I did nothing well and I returned to consuming. That is all I knew for having pleasure. To provide me ephemeral relief, writing became my drug.
I pass in front of the Parole Board in the summer. My plan is to go to a halfway house in region. They have a six-month addictions program there, after which you can start your social reintegration. I’ll make my CV and find work there and when I am ready, I’ll return to city.
For those who are thinking of applying to Waseskun, I have this to say: Waseskun is not a vacation camp, nor a place to come to “do time”, it’s a place for working on yourself. At a certain moment, one finds one’s way. My son committed suicide at the age of 20. I didn’t want to work on my grieving, on my feelings of guilt concerning his suicide. This is also something that I have worked on here. I now feel better that I did before when I think or talk about him. I speak quite a lot about it in programs because it was a very big thing in my life. I was close to my son, like I am with my daughter. He was going to university to become a geologist. He was very intelligent. He didn’t consume any drugs. He was suffering heartbreak at the same time that I went to prison. He felt alone and abandoned. He would have now been 33. For the people wanting to come here, they need to be ready to work on themselves. It’s not always easy. There will be days that one finds are hard, that’s for sure. But one is good here and one is in Nature.
EMOTIONAL DEPRIVATION 1967
By : Pierre P.
To forgive oneself and forgive others, these are two currents from a same river than can be clogged by the barrier of resentment….
On a beautiful June day, Montreal is having its most wonderful moments. The universal Expo is in full flow, the subway (metro) is in construction, la Ronde and Ste-Hélène Island are coming to life with earth recovered from the tunnels. Under the reign of mayor Jean Drapeau, Montreal is the entire world’s sweetheart, she is part of the international elite.
During these times of rejoicing, the alcohol is gushing in a low-income housing facility of the Rosemont neighbourhood. At the corner of 2nd Avenue and Masson, where alcoholics and addicts rub shoulders, you can hear a baby scream from apartment 2 and a woman yell: ‘’Bloody hell, go and see why he is screaming!’’ Léo obeys without grumbling, mostly because he does not wish to upset Thérèse who has already had a couple of drinks even though it’s early in the day.
Thérèse is Native, she is from a Micmac reserve in New-Brunswick. She drinks gin without water, which makes her unsociable. He who dares face her will get the glass thrown in his face; of course, she takes time to empty it first.
Léo (Léonidas) is a little man without any malice originating from Lac-Saint-Jean, and he too is an alcoholic. When he can no longer put up with Thérèse, he leaves and goes to the tavern at the corner of 2nd Avenue.
Despite their alcohol addiction, these two unfortunate people had seven children. I am the seventh, which, according to popular belief, has a gift: the only one I was able to observe for all my life is the one for getting myself into trouble.
It wasn’t a pregnancy that could slow down Thérèse’s alcohol consumption, there is an alcoholic maxim that says: ‘’Some of these unfortunates seem to be born that way”. When I was born, I was hitting the .08 level. When the doctor turned me over to breathe, I threw up on his shoes…. I was already hereditarily condemned to an alcohol problem.
My sister Johanne, then 7 years old, was the only one still living with my parents. Four of my brothers were in foster homes. Alain, the oldest, left to go and live on his own at 16 years old.
When Léo was at the tavern or when he was working, Thérèse had a bad habit of falling asleep in the afternoon. When my diaper was full or when I was hungry, the only means I had to express my needs were to scream, which alerted the neighbors. Exasperated by the screams, they communicated with social services. Seeing that my mother was not apt to take care of me, they entrusted the Soeurs Grises at the Crèche Youville on St-Hubert street with my guardianship. I have no recollection of my time with the nuns. The ones I have come from what I was told by one of my social workers. The image that comes to mind when I recall her story, are babies lined up in cribs behind a glass window that you chose as if you were grocery shopping or like a dog that you want to adopt from the SPCA….’’I want him not too young, already potty trained if possible.’’ What a sad story! This is the reaction of most people as they read this story.
At that moment, I was only two months old, I was not aware of my status. I was a child like any other one, with all his spontaneity and innocence. I have nothing negative to say about the first foster care homes I have been in. In one of them, there was Tonio, a big guy with a shaved skull, full of tattoos and, who was a great fan of Molson. Despite his bully appearance, he is part of the fondest memories I have of my childhood. Among these are hockey nights on Saturday evenings on RadioCanada. Tonio was sitting comfortably in his old brown and cracked lazy boy. I was sitting on the floor between the pizza box and the large Molson.
I was lying in wait! Ready to react when Miss Molson would be empty. I was in charge of replenishing my mentor’s drink. In order to execute my contract, I had an orange plastic tractor that had pedals. When I saw that there was only foam left in the bottle, I would leave with it and have the other hand on the steering wheel and I would pedal so fast that my front wheel would almost lose its traction.
I had to execute my contract flawlessly if I wanted to keep on going to bed late on Saturday nights. Upon arrival in the kitchen, I would climb up on a chair, I would open the fridge and I would get the big one out. Then, off towards the corkscrew that was screwed onto the cupboard. A I was only 4 years old, I had to push like an ox to open it. Then, I had to go back without spilling my precious load. In order to do that, I would keep it between my legs…. Don’t forget that we are in the 70s.
I remember the day when, as a child, I lost my innocence. It was in first grade. We had a form that our parents needed to sign. It was on my desk while waiting for the teacher to pick it up. A boy in my class looked at it and said to me: ‘’Why isn’t your name Therrien like your parents?’’ I froze. I knew that they weren’t my real parents, but I never felt the need to justify myself on that subject before. I tried to find something that matched the uneasiness I felt that day. Then I thought about Tarzan…when he saw men in the jungle for the first time and then understood that he wasn’t a monkey….
No matter what our past is, we all need at least one good childhood memory. Will you be able to find one?
REINTEGRATION THROUGH EDUCATION
Barbara Monture Malloch Education and Research Centre
The Barbara Monture Malloch Education and Research Centre is Waseskun’s latest initiative to help ensure the successful social reintegration of our community members. The Centre will provide formal secondary and post-secondary opportunities to residents through partnerships with schools and universities. Cultural, employment and general interest courses and research activities will also be offered. The Centre will provide for older residents learning the basic technological skills they will need to succeed upon their release (computer, Internet and smart phone use).
Our collection of books is being expanded and reorganized into a proper library. A specific room was designated, and one of our residents built custom bookshelves for it. The chief librarian, one of our residents, has catalogued nearly 900 books, with new volumes arriving regularly. Residents are encouraged to borrow fiction and non-fiction books in French or English. We will also be purchasing subscriptions to a variety of print and online magazines and periodicals.
The second phase of the project will see an expansion of our classroom and computer room. This will give community members access to computer-based learning programs, more frequent supervised internet use for research purposes and online family video visits. With computer-based learning, residents will have access to a range of programs from new jobs skills training to general interest courses, as well as those on specifically chosen topics.
The expanded computer room will also be used to teach basic computer and internet skills to older community members as they prepare to reintegrate after long sentences. It is not uncommon for these older men to have never had the opportunity to use a computer or the Internet. These days, with everything from apartment hunting to banking being done online, technology has become a basic life skill everyone needs to learn.
Indigenous language acquisition and improvement will be one of the key features of the Centre. We will take advantage of the large number of computer-based learning modules that are being developed by communities across Canada. To reinforce language skills, Waseskun will focus on bringing in visiting Elders and resources from a wide variety of linguistic backgrounds.
An Education and Research Centre Coordinator has been hired and will take on the task of developing and operating the Centre in mid-April. We will also hire an Activities Facilitator who will work with the Coordinator to organize and animate new programs. One of the first tasks the Coordinator will undertake is establishing partnerships with Universities and Colleges to allow the Waseskun Community access to distance learning, online degree programs and aces to online library catalogues for research purposes
We have seen the benefits that post-secondary studies can make to successful reintegration. An excellent example of this is a former resident who completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree and began Post-Graduate work during his stay at Waseskun. Now back in his community, this resident will be starting work on a PhD this summer. He writes, “Too many people see and use prisons as a way to inflict harm and facilitate retribution as opposed to a place where men and women can grow and learn. There’s no doubt in my mind that my life would be very different right now had I not had my education to keep me grounded and focused on my future. … I certainly wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Waseskun and all the support you gave me over the years
The Education and Research Centre is named after Barbara Monture Malloch, a founding member of Waseskun’s Board of Directors, who served as President for twenty seven years. Barbara continues to serve on the Board and has been a strong supporter of Waseskun since it first opened over thirty years ago.
By: Donaven M.
We received a visit from Roger, an Elder from Obedjiwan, and he taught us how to braid snowshoes. This was difficult because I never learnt this before. I had to ask Roger for help many times. I didn’t give up but ended up finishing with a few defects. I hadn’t yet acquired the skills and I am waiting for Roger to return so I can redo them if possible.
I have mostly made traditional moccasins, gloves and mittens; I learnt from the Cree who come here sometimes, but this was also something new for me. I developed my patience, my resilience, and skill at how to make these crafts. I further developed these qualities through working on the snowshoes.
I am working hard on my person healing during my time at Waseskun, focused mostly on what I have done in my past, my regrets, and what bothers me inside. I have learned a lot about myself, I know myself better, and I have learned to start forgiving myself. Here it depends on how we apply ourselves to our personal healing. For me, reflecting on my life has helped me better understand where my problems come from. Talking about this does a lot of good for one’s interior; the Ceremonies done at Waseskun enormously help with our personal healing. And for future residents, it’s a good choice to find yourself here if you want to help yourself and heal hurts from your past.
Willingness to change is important and one needs to believe in it. There are ups and downs, but one needs to know how to manage them. I encourage everyone to not give up and to continue making good headway along their path.
By: Daryle K.
Meet Felix, Waseskun’s only four-legged resident. He wandered onto the property in early autumn 2018, very thin, missing about two inches from his tail which was bloodied with exposed flesh. He was obviously weak from hunger. Some residents first met him in front of our canteen shop. They were very receptive, and he wasn’t at all timid or apprehensive when a resident offered him some Fritos Hoops. Cats are predators and will rarely, if ever, eat anything other than meat. But this cat was very eager to accept the unconventional food being offered and it was at that point the residents realized he was starving. Later that evening several residents were able to provide him with food better suited for cats.
It took approximately two weeks for Felix to recover from whatever ordeals he endured before arriving at Waseskun. As he became stronger, he began demonstrating his appreciation for the care and affection being lavished upon him. It was then that the residents gave him the name FELIX and welcomed him as a member of the community. It seems that the healing powers of Waseskun extend beyond people.
Felix has found a place at Waseskun and on several occasions has had to literally fight other cats attempting to control the resources in what is now his territory. He is treated with respect and kindness by the residents, and generally seems to like his human family. Frequently, residents can be seen sitting alone with Felix, talking through whatever is on their minds. Good medicine indeed!
HORSE FARM EXPERIENCE
By: Daryle K.
In the summer of 2019, residents of the Waseskun Healing Center were granted access to a horse farm in development as a site for short trail rides on horseback. The partnership with the farm was seen as an opportunity for Waseskun residents to develop their emotional strengths while on their healing path. The outings also give residents an opportunity to leave the Center and contribute to the surrounding community.
As a resident at Waseskun, I was eager to take part in this new aspect of my healing the moment I became aware the agreement was finalized. As animal lovers and pet owners can attest, animals provide you with moments of relaxation, humor, peace of mind and body. Pet therapy is a proven method of relaxation for individuals with mental and emotional difficulties. I personally, have always enjoyed being around animals.
Relating with horses is very different from interactions with your house cat or family dog. Horses are generally used for riding and are rarely treated like the family pet. They require treatment more attentive to their needs as opposed to a dog or cat who aid in your relaxation. The needs of a horse require you to be aware of the emotional state of this being. An example of what you must be aware of around horses, is your emotional state because horses are very cognizant of your state of being. The horse must be relaxed to enable you to groom them, lift their foot to check the hooves for injuries and cleaning. Horses are very powerful animals and can inadvertently cause you harm if you are not careful and mindful of their emotional state.
I find working with the horses, even for this short time, has taught me to be very attentive of the emotional state of these marvelous animals and my own emotional state before approaching them. They are social beings with a pecking order, and they will look to the human as their leader when you are present, but they will only accept stability.
The horse farm allows residents of Waseskun to help maintain the site by grooming and developing the riding trails, helping with repairs and other improvements at the site. The horses can provide a valuable teaching tool for the residents of Waseskun who choose to participate in this aspect of therapy, learning and contributing to the surrounding community.
WASESKUN’S SKATING RINK
By: Pierre P.
1977, the Montreal Canadiens won a third consecutive Stanley Cup. They were only defeated 10 times in 80 games. Guy Lafleur won, for the third time, the top scorers’ championship and Ken Dryden walked away with the Vezina trophy for the best goalie of this prolific year. He was my idol; the walls of my room were wallpapered with posters and hockey cards representing him. I had even made myself a red-white-and-blue mask identical to his. I never missed a game on Saturday evenings on Radio-Canada. I dreamt about becoming a goalie like my idol, about becoming the future goalkeeper of the Montreal Canadiens. But unfortunately, my guardians in my foster home didn’t have the means to buy me hockey equipment and sign me up with a hockey team.
Nevertheless, I could play with my friends at the outdoor skating rink in the village. On Sunday mornings I was always excited at the idea of going there to indulge in my passion. One of my friends would lend me his goalie equipment and then we would form two teams. My fertile imagination allowed me to create all kinds of scenarios. We were the Montreal Canadiens that were facing the big bad Boston Bruins in a playoff game. When I would put my face in that mask, the metamorphosis would happen, I became Ken Dryden for a day. We would play until suppertime and until the leather shin pads were soaked in water and weighed a ton.
These memories came back to me when I saw the skating rink that two residents set up on the Waseskun property. On a sunny Friday in mid-January, a resident asked me if I want to play hockey in the afternoon. At first, I hesitated. I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to the expectations, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger crowd. Then I saw another resident arrive with shin pads that he had made of foam and, baseball mitts that would complete this make-shift goalie equipment. This motivated me and I found the same competitive spirit that inhabited me when I was younger. There were about 10 of us- enough to form two teams. While I was putting my primitive equipment on, I saw a staff member jump on the ice, and he was flying like a rocket-ship on his skates. I was so impressed by his dexterity with a hockey stick. I saw him come towards me with the puck- I must make the save! He fired a bullet top corner that I didn’t even see pass. Holy Cow! This guy must be on my team. Afterwards, another resident came towards me with as much speed and with a Connor McDavid kind of move, makes me ‘swallow my cup of coffee’ and scores. Geez! I am a real sieve! My pride took a beating. We then formed our teams and played all afternoon. When bedtime came around, I felt light and a feeling of pride overcame me. In conclusion, I think that finding the child in yourself again is part of the best therapies that we can do for our well-being.
A pair of snowshoes, a quiet forest, and a group of brothers — what could be better on a sunny winter day? As part of the current program block, Waseskun scheduled regular snowshoeing outings. The first trip was held at le Centre de santé par le cheval Koinonia, the community resource that we refer to as the Horse Farm (see article, pg. 35). It is not open to the general public, so Waseskun residents and accompanying staff members had the entire 100-acre property to themselves.
Unfortunately, the novel Coronavirus put an end such outings, and the program was cancelled for the remainder of the season. Well, Spring has essentially arrived, and the snow will soon be gone in any event. We fully expect it to be up and running (or snowshoeing!) next year. As well, we should be able to start a hiking program along the trails at Koinonia during the nice weather this year, as soon as the restrictions are removed, and the health of individuals is no longer at risk.
If you are interested in receiving our newsletter or in collaborating please contact us. If you wish to submit articles, stories, photos or other information, we will do our best to include your contributions in a future publication.
1 Waseskun street
PO Box 1159
Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez (Qc), J0K 1W0
Tél. : 450 883-2034 Fax : 450 883-3631