My name is Joanie and I am an Innue from Mashteuiatsh, a community on the shores of Lac-St-Jean. I am 23 years old and I grew up in my community with my family. I came to Montreal in March 2020, only a few days before the beginning of the pandemic in the city.

When I came to the big city, I absolutely wanted to find a job in an Indigenous center or organization. It was really important to me. After doing some research, I came across PAQ.  I then became a night intervention worker at the shelter.

What I like about working at PAQ is that I feel I am in a community. I wanted to find a place with that feeling. Here at PAQ, it’s what I like, because I really feel like I am back in my community. I intervene with people that I can understand and understand what they have lived. It’s really what I like.

In coming to PAQ, I have learned a lot. I share and speak with the participants about their different cultures, but also about their experiences and their lives. Because I am Indigenous, I am closer to the participants and receive a lot of their confidences. I knew some things, but not in such detail. I have heard many stories about residential schools.  I knew that these experiences were something, but I have learned so much more.

For me, having a shelter like PAQ in Montreal is really important. It is a meeting point, a place to find each other when we arrive in the big city. I felt a little lost when I arrived here and I think it’s the feeling shared by everybody who comes to Montreal. We all come from little communities where there are maybe two or three convenience stores. You arrive here and it’s full of shopping centres everywhere. It is important that we try to help Indigenous people as much as possible to guide them, for them to succeed, and to make a difference.

On a personal note, I have a particular objective in life. I want to become a police officer, and it’s a really rare goal for young Indigenous women. I would like to work in an Indigenous community to be able to bring a new vision to police attitudes towards Indigenous peoples and their communities. If you are Indigenous, that can help create a link. As an Indigenous policewoman, you can understand the realities of others. It is really that my life goal, to make a difference in policing.

For the Indigenous people of Quebec, I wish that there were more services, particularly in health and education. I would also like to see the conditions improve in the communities. There are still some communities today that, for reasons I do not understand, do not have access to potable water. We should help these communities. There are some communities where everything is fine, but there also are some that are poor and it is those that need help.

While waiting to return in my home community, I practice some traditional customs and arts, learned from my family and friends. I make mittens and earrings, and I prepare some bannock, a food treat that I like a lot. I also learned to my boyfriend to speak the Nehlueun. Because of this, I can continue to speak my language at my home in Montreal.