Qavvivik Health Centre opens for Montreal’s urban Inuit

Facility tends to needs of the nearly 2,000 Inuit living in city

The team at Qavvivik Inuit Family and Community Health Centre in Montreal celebrates the centre’s opening Thursday. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Inuit living in Montreal can get clinical care through a new community health centre specially designed to cater to them.

The Qavvivik Inuit Family and Community Health Centre opened Thursday and will continue to provide health services every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The centre, located in the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex in room 236, near the Vendôme metro station, is Inuit-led and Inuit-run.

There’s been a huge need for this in the community, said Carolyn Stone, co-leader of the project.

“The biggest thing for me has always been the mistrust that Inuit have with the health system,” she said.

Often for Inuit, walking into a hospital “is such a hard situation, it got so bad that people would prefer to be sick or die on the streets than to go see a doctor.”

Carolyn Stone, left, and Christopher Fletcher hang out at the Qavvivik Health Centre in Montreal, which they both co-lead, on its opening day Thursday. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

Qavvivik’s board of directors is 100 per cent Inuit, alongside most of the staff. Stone herself is from Inukjuak.

The doctors at the clinic have been selected for their experience practising in Nunavik for decades.

Inuit navigators also help patients work through details after their visit, whether that’s booking appointments for blood work, X-rays or getting prescriptions.

There are six staff, one part-time youth on the team, and others work at the centre on contract.

“We’re hoping that if an urban [Inuk] needs something health-related, they can call Qavvivik and we will be able to help,” said Stone.

“If we can’t do it, we will know someone who can.”

The centre also follows up with patients to ensure their needs are eventually fulfilled.

And there’s a taste of home even before the appointment begins: country food is available for patients coming into the waiting room.

“It has been one of our top priorities, to ensure that we always have country food in our freezers.”

The need for this centre in Montreal dates back 40 years, said Stone.

“There are over 2,000 Inuit that live in Montreal now, but for a long time we could not access funding since we were not recognized as Inuit even though we lived in the south,” she said.

The Qavvivik Health Centre is now open once a week at the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex in Montreal, where urban Inuit can be given health services by Inuit. (Photo by Cedric Gallant)

So Stone spent 18 months procuring funding alongside her co-leader, Christopher Fletcher. The duo received $700,000 through Makivvik Corp. and bits of money from other organizations.

Fletcher is a professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Laval University. He calls a culturally safe health environment a type of “social health.”

“Social health is as important to the wellness of a person as physical health,” he said. “If you are well situated, well supported, you are going to be healthy.”

The Qavvivik team is also working on a comprehensive survey of the urban Inuit population in Montreal. Data collected will help it nail down what the community needs.

“We have a really strong and thriving community here in Montreal,” said Stone, “and we want to know what they need.”

“All the data that comes off this survey is Inuit-owned, Inuit-controlled, Inuit looked after … We will be the knowledge keepers.”

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Got Burned before for helping on

    Hope Makivvik don’t try to take it over and destroy the effort.


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