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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Outside in the cold

BY Will Nicholls Feb 26, 2021

*This article has been updated on February 26, 2020

Cree culture has always been about sharing and taking care of each other. Sometimes we forget other peoples have the same values as what we see doesn’t always show that. It seems there is a difference between community and political actions to help those less fortunate.

Quebec Premier François Legault repeatedly told us that homeless people wouldn’t be exempt from Quebec’s 8pm-to-5am curfew. We should thank Quebec Superior Court Judge Chantal Masse for overturning that political judgment. It was too late, though, for Raphaël André, an Innu homeless man, who was found frozen to death in a chemical toilet on January 17.

The Native Women’s Shelter, which runs Resilience Montreal, wanted to create a warming tent in Cabot Square. Even though the homeless don’t now have to worry about being ticketed, Nakuset, the shelter’s executive director, said they still need a place to get warm in the cold nights.

Nakuset hoped the warming tent would be approved and it was. At the time, Montreal temperatures are forecasted to drop. 

“There’s nowhere to go in this area, especially on the weekends, to keep warm. Even at Resilience, because of the Covid outbreak, our services are limited. They can come in and get something to eat, but they have to leave. So, the idea of a warming tent is really important because the people in this area are cold all the time,” Nakuset said.

Then Kahnawake’s Host Hotel pledged $25,000. “We’re bringing in generators and gas and donations for the tent,” said Mary Goodleaf, one of the owners. “Hopefully, it gives people a warm place to rest their head for the next few weeks and maybe by luck, somebody else will want to contribute.”

To date $44,000 has been raised to pay for needed supplies and rooms for workers.

A family member said it’s worth doing “if it saves one person’s life or helps out someone in a small or huge way.”

Nakuset praised Kahnawake, saying there has been an outpouring of support from the community, including people donating knitted socks. 

The city of Montreal has not only sanctioned the warming tent but offered to pay for rental costs. Unfortunately, the generosity will end by the middle of February as Montreal said the tent has to be taken down after only two weeks. It was set up on February 2. February is one of the coldest months, leaving many to wonder why the homeless will be once again left out in the cold.

Nakuset is hoping that people will pressure the city to grant an extension. For those willing to help, go to the Native Women’s Shelter website or see the GoFundMe section of Resilience Montreal.

The warming tent is for everyone and was created by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Being homeless doesn’t recognize race. Let’s help those left outside in the cold. It’s the human thing to do.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.