A ceremony opening the first Cree women’s shelter was held Monday in the James Bay community of Waswanipi. The shelter gives Quebec Cree women and children a culturally safe place to go if they are experiencing abuse.
”I’m going to call it a temporary resource right now,” said Linda L. Shecapio, the president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association, who spoke at the ceremony.
”We know it isn’t our value in disrespecting and dishonouring our women. I believe we are in the right direction for healing.”
The 18-bed Pipiichaau Uchishtuun (Robin’s Nest) Women’s Shelter in Waswanipi will serve the inland Cree communities of Waswanipi, Oujé-Bougoumou, Mistissini and Nemaska with counselling, healing and support services, including 24-hour emergency and crisis management services.
A second shelter in the community of Waskaganish is expected open in early 2018 to serve the coastal Cree communities of Whapmagoostui, Chisasibi, Wemindji, Waskaganish, and Eastmain.
The shelters have been several years in the making and are a collaboration between the Department of Justice and Correctional Services of the Cree Nation Government, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of Eeyou Istchee the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association, as well as the government of Quebec.
‘Coming together for our people’
That collaboration was highlighted on Monday with a “lacing ceremony,” where the logos of the three Cree organizations behind Robin’s Nest were stitched together with moosehide.
The lacing was meant ”to signify the importance of coming together for our people, for our communities,” said Virginia Wabano, coordinator of Robin’s Nest Women’s Shelter, and one of the driving forces behind the project. ”So that we can heal together.”