New health clinic opens for Indigenous families in Montreal

A new health clinic in Montreal aims to provide culturally safe care for Indigenous families living in the city.It’s a collaborative project launched by Native Montreal, a friendship centre, in partnership with the regional health authority.Philippe Meilleur, executive director of Native Montreal, said the clinic is starting out small with a doctor available twice a week and two nurses on site to provide a range of front-line services to Indigenous families, children, adults and seniors.”Our job is to serve,” said Meilleur, who is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Kanesatake, northwest of Montreal.”Right now, we’re kicking off the model, the basics, and when more people will be signing up, our job is going to be to advocate, recruit and build the service.”Native Montreal executive director Philippe Meilleur (right), Ian Lafrenière, minister responsible for relations with First Nations and Inuit, and Christian Dubé, Quebec’s health minister, during the clinic’s opening event. (Native Montreal/Facebook)The clinic, which is located on Saint-Jacques Street in Montreal’s Sud-Ouest, has two exam rooms and three multi-purpose rooms including a cedar room that will be used for when patients want to see a traditional knowledge keeper.Meilleur said since October the clinic has been serving roughly 100 patients. The official opening took place on Friday with provincial ministers in attendance.”We can’t work in silos. We need to work together, and this is a strong message,” said Ian Lafrenière, minister responsible for relations with First Nations and Inuit, during the event. Val d’Or modelThe clinic is modelled after the Minowé clinic, an integrated health centre that’s a partnership between the Native Friendship Centre in Val d’Or and the public health authority of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region that has been replicated in urban settings across Quebec.Native Montreal started its family clinic project in 2021. It is funded through the Quebec government’s I Have Hope initiative, which includes measures to support health and wellness projects in friendship centres based on the model developed in Val d’Or.The clinic’s cedar room is a place where patients can access traditional healing care from knowledge keepers and elders. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)”I am very pleased with the inauguration of this clinic, which reflects our government’s commitment to continuing its efforts to improve front-line care and culturally adapted service for Native citizens in urban areas, taking into account their specific needs,” said Christian Dubé, Quebec’s health minister, in a release.Health navigation supportOne of those specific needs is the support of health navigators.”I think for everyone, the health system is really complicated,” said Rachel Albert, a health navigator with the clinic.Rachel Albert, who is Métis, works as a health navigator at Native Montreal’s family health clinic. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)”There’s a lot of wait times and what not, but when you have Indigenous people thrown into the mix, there’s a lot of racism that occurs.”For Albert, one biggest issues Indigenous people face while accessing public health services is trust, and she believes this new clinic will help build bonds between the health system and Indigenous population in Montreal. So far, she sees how it is working with her clients.”There’s patients who have come here completely super, super anxious, very worried and who have left smiling and have been like ‘I’ve never had a doctor listen to me properly,'” she said.

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