Soon, the Gignu Group Home will be run entirely by the community. On January 19th, Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS) signed over the responsibility to the LMG. The transfer has been in the works for over ten years.
Nearly 20 people gathered at the newly constructed building to witness the official signing. There is no exact opening date as of yet, but job advertisements for the new positions have been posted.
“What I really like about this agreement is the fact that we’ve been able to work out a way that we as Listuguj, will – over time – take over the running, the administration, the direction of the services that will be provided to our youth, by our people,” said Chief Darcy Gray.
Connie Jacques, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, said the project started out simply to construct a new building, and along the way everyone decided that it was a good time to start the transfer of ownership. There had been discussions before she got involved, 10 years ago. The entire program will eventually be developed out of Listuguj.
“We’ll have a transition step where the center will be run by the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government and with support from our services,” Jacques said. “But eventually, the goal is that we’re not here anymore.”
The event also took the opportunity to honor some of the long standing employees of the Gignu Group Home, like Dolly Barnaby.
“I initially thought that this was for recognition of Susan’s retirement,” Barnaby said.
Susan Basque retired on January 11th. But four others were recognized for working more than 25 years. Barnaby has been there for 31 years, since the beginning. She said the center was their baby, right from the start.
“We were all very young,” she said. “The whole team was very young and we had never worked in a readaptation, rehabilitation center before. And so it took quite a while to establish ourselves – for the community to recognize us and to believe in us and trust their youth with us.”
Barnaby admits that there’s been bad times along with the good, but if they’ve helped just one kid, then they’ve succeeded, she said. With the new building, and new ownership, she doesn’t see much changing.
“The way we work with the youth is not going to change,” she said. “We’re just going to have the space to be able to do the work that needs to be done.”
One change however – which excites her – is the steps to indigenize the programs more. Chief Darcy Gray echoed this vision.
“I would like to see more cultural knowledge, traditional practices, Mi’gmaq ways of healing and working together and bringing about healthier people,” he said.
For many, seeing exactly how this will all develop is exciting, and a source of pride.
“I feel we’ve just put a child forth in the world,” said Jacques. “Now we’re gonna watch it grow up.”