On June 9, 2021, Bertie Wapachee, Chairperson, Daniel St-Amour, Executive Director, and Virginia Wabano, Regional Proximity Director, joined Waswanipi CMC Local Director Eleanor Gull and her team at the General Assembly of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi.
The first afternoon of the two-day Assembly was devoted to updating the community on the Cree Health Board’s plans to improve services to the community and at a regional level. In addition to the Community Miyupimaatisiiuun Centre which offers primary health and social services to the community of 2,118 people, Waswanipi is home to the Robin’s Nest Women’s Shelter, one of two such facilities in Eeyou Istchee. The Cree School Board’s Sabtuan Regional Vocational Centre is also in Waswanipi, and the CBHSSJB and CSB partner in offering vocational training through the SRVC for Beneficiary Attendants and Medical Secretaries.
In the coming years, Waswanipi community members will see the creation of a 9-bed Elders’ Transition Home called Ashuukin. A Transition Home is a residence in which Elders can live when their care needs are too great to live at home, but not enough to require an Elders’s Home (about an hour a day of care). A Memorandum of Understanding concerning this project was signed by the Cree Nation of Waswanipi and the CBHSSJB at the Assembly. In the MOU, the parties outline their intention to develop the ground floor of an existing building at 3 West Aspen into the Transition Home.
To better serve the Territory as a whole, the Cree Health Board is organizing into three regional service poles, so that residents of smaller communities such as Waswanipi will be able to get more complex services in nearby Cree communities, reducing the need to travel outside the region for medical care and social services. Waswanipi, Ouje-Bougoumou and Mistissini form the Mistissini pole.
This summer, construction begins on two projects in Mistissini which will benefit all three communities in the regional pole: an Elders’ Home for those who require more support than is offered in a Transition Home, and a Birthing Home, which will provide a culturally safe, welcoming environment for babies to be welcomed into the world.
The vision presented by the Chairperson and Executive Director reflects the expansion of regional facilities taking place as a result of the 2019 Funding Framework with the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec. Other projects include the new Regional Health Centre in Chisasibi (opening 2026), land-based healing facilities for adults and youth, and homes for individuals with special needs. Thanks to the efforts of the Material Resources Department, capital projects are all on schedule, even with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More changes and improvements are coming; under the leadership of Bertie Wapachee, who assumed the position of Chair in November 2020, the organization is preparing to develop its next Strategic Regional Plan, covering the period 2022-2027.