Life in Eeyou Istchee


Participating in community events

The CBHSSJB employs health care workers from many parts of Canada and the world. This information is for you.

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay is responsible for the management of health and social services for all residents of the Cree territory of James Bay: the area corresponding to Region 18 of the health network of the province of Quebec.

Health and social services in the Communities

In each of the 9 communities of Eeyou Istchee, the CBHSSJB operates a Community Miyupimaatisiiun Centre (CMC), which is similar to a CSSS elsewhere in Quebec. CMC is an umbrella term for all local health and social services. Not all services are in the same building. Medical and dental services and administration are located in “the clinic”, while social services, elder care and rehab may be located in separate buildings.

Regional services

In addition to the services offered by CMCs, the CBHSSJB operates regional establishments and services:

  • The 29-bed Chisasibi Regional Hospital
  • Three group homes operated by Youth Healing Services
  • Regional Public Health, located in Mistissini
  • Cree Patient Services liaison offices in Chisasibi, Chibougamau, Val d’Or and Montreal (1055, Boulevard René-Lévesque East).
  • Human Resources and regional Public Health satellite offices at 1055 Boulevard René-Lévesque East, Montreal.

Geography and climate

Nine Cree communities house most of the population of Eeyou Istchee. The territory is vast, covering 450,000 square kilometers (two-thirds the size of France). It includes the lakes and rivers that drain into eastern James Bay and Southeastern Hudson Bay. The environment ranges from taiga (northern boreal forest) in the south, to tundra further north.


We are the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. We call ourselves Eeyou and Eenou. Our name means simply “the people”. Patients of the CBHSSJB include the almost 16,000 people residing in the nine Cree communities and scattered throughout the territory at hunting camps, mine sites, hydro-electric installations and logging camps.


The Cree language is the first language of most Cree people. Some of your patients will be elders who speak no other language except Cree. You will work with an interpreter when providing services to these patients. For historical reasons, the second language spoken in the Cree Territory (and the working language of the CBHSSJB) is English. A growing number of Cree people also speak French fluently, and many of your clinical colleagues, especially nurses, are French speakers.

Getting here

All Cree communities except Whapmagoostui are accessible by road, but the distances are long and driving conditions can be difficult. Driving to coastal communities and Nemaska requires a sturdy vehicle that can withstand gravel roads, such as a 4x4. Snow tires are recommended between September and June, as snow and ice is always a possibility except in the warmest months.

For your safety: Before setting out by car, check the weather and Québec 511 for road conditions on highways managed by Transport Québec, including the Route du Nord. Check SDBJ for James Bay Highway conditions between Matagami and Chisasibi, as well as access roads to the coastal communities of Waskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji and Chisasibi.

Air transportation is via the regional airline Air Creebec.


The CBHSSJB maintains “transit” accommodation for visiting medical staff. You may be sharing the transit with other medical professionals. You will have a private bedroom and your sheets and towels are provided. All transits have laundry appliances and a kitchen with basic appliances, as well as a phone. Most transits have internet and a TV with cable or satellite. You are expected to keep communal areas clean and tidy. At the end of your stay you must wash and fold your linens, leave your room tidy and remove any perishable foods from the kitchen.

What to wear

Health workers coming here from the south should prepare for a cold winter with plenty of snow, cool temperatures and unpredictable weather in the spring and fall, and a short summer. Roads can be muddy and dusty, even inside the communities, so bring sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots and another pair of shoes or slippers to wear indoors. The dress code, whether at work or at social events, is casual.

Doctors, nurses and dentists on short-term assignments – remember to bring your own scrubs, protective lenses, stethoscope and indoor shoes.

Food and drink

You are responsible for your own food and grocery shopping. Most communities have a local grocery store, but specialty items such as vegetarian and organic foods might not be available. Food can be expensive, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. All communities also have one or two restaurants serving basic Canadian food.

Water quality in the Cree communities is generally excellent, so you don’t need to drink bottled water. Alcohol is not sold in any Cree community except Whapmagoostui. Drinking in public places is not permitted.


Check the coverage map and roaming charges of your cellphone provider before leaving home. Bell mobility/Telebec is the only network that reaches all the Cree communities at this time.

Sports and leisure

The best way to experience the Cree way of life is by participating in community and cultural activities. Most communities have an ice rink, fitness centre and a gymnasium. Several communities, including Chisasibi, have indoor pools. Ask the Community Health Representative or Community Organizer at the clinic about opportunities to participate in Cree cultural activities such as walking out ceremonies. The region offers some of the world’s best fishing, canoeing, hiking and snowmobiling. For more information visit: Eeyou Istchee Baie-James website. 


The McGill University video Field Studies in Northern Quebec, filmed in August 2012, follows two students in Occupational Therapy who did field placements with the CBHSSJB in Mistissini as part of their education.