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Red Cross plans James Bay programming with office in Moose Factory

Thursday November 22, 2012
Johan Hallberg-Campbell/Special to Wawatay News
The High Ridge singers perform a song during the Nov. 14 grand opening of the Canadian Red Cross satellite office in Moose Factory while Moose Cree executive director Peter Wesley, Chief Norm Hardisty Jr., and Canadian Red Cross Secretary General & CEO Conrad Sauve look on.

Moose Cree First Nation will serve as a hub in the James Bay region for the Canadian Red Cross after the national organization officially opened a satellite office in the community on Nov. 14.

The Red Cross office will support the development and delivery of Red Cross programs and services, including disaster preparedness and response, and violence and abuse prevention programs.

Moose Cree Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. welcomed the humanitarian organization that is well known internationally for assisting in disaster relief situations.

“This partnership will enable us to build our capacity for preparing and responding to disasters and implement Red Cross programs to improve the health and safety of our citizens,” he said.

Hardisty said his community has a lot of background in search and rescue operations but the addition of the Red Cross’ programs will enhance those services.

“I really feel that we’re adding and building more capacity,” he said.

Moose Cree is the first First Nation community in Ontario to host a Red Cross office and the second to do so in Canada. The office is located in the community’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre.

Last year, the Canadian Red Cross was the first outside agency to respond to the Attawapiskat housing crisis. And while the organization has since pulled out of the James Bay community, the opening of the Moose Cree office is the beginning of a long-term strategy towards building relationships with First Nations communities along the coast.

Melanie Goodchild-Southwind, senior manager of First Nation projects with the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, said a resolution with the Chiefs of Ontario was passed in 2010 to support work between the organization and First Nations and, since then, they have been looking to open a satellite office in a First Nations community in northern Ontario.

Among the criteria, Goodchild-Southwind said, was what type of experience the community had in using volunteers.

“Also the location because a satellite is intended to be a centre that can also help surrounding communities and Moose Cree described in their proposal how they work with other communities along the James Bay coast,” she said. “Based on that, we knew that they would be a good location for a hub.”

The office is considered permanent and will be a satellite office for the Timmins regional office. The Moose Cree location will offer Red Cross’ Disaster Management program and services and the RespectED: Violence and Abuse Prevention program.

Goodchild-Southwind said two staff positions will be filled and a needs assessment will be conducted in the community

“First thing we’ll need to start planning is how to get a full disaster response program going on in Moose Cree and getting training for the Violence and Abuse Prevention program,” she said.

Goodchild-Southwind said after the experience of having an office in the Blood Reserve in Alberta, where a lot of original programming was developed, there’s a lot of potential in the partnership with Moose Cree.

“Particularly to enhance our program so that they’re culturally appropriate and draw on local volunteers and knowledge,” she said. “That’s what’s very exciting.”

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