My name is Charlotte and I come from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik. I grew up in my community with my family, my brothers, and sisters. I learned Inuktitut at first and English after.
When I was young, I lived the Inuit way of life. I was camping most of the time, but also hunting and fishing. There was no TV, no stereo, only life. I remember that we were going ice-skating before all the technology stuff. That was in the 80’s. We used to skate every winter, and in the summer, the skating rink became a baseball field. This area, I can’t forget it. It was the gathering place for the young people, for us to be there and enjoy life. I have only kept the good memories, because if you remember bad ones, they catch up with you. There’s the good side of me, the bad side of me and the center me. We have to keep it in the center.
I had the best relationship with my dad. One day, he had to come to Montreal for his job and he invited me along instead of someone else. He brought his favorite daughter, me. So, I followed him and I never left Montreal. I was supposed to stay only one week but I ended up living here. I liked it so much. That was something like 35 or 37 years ago. I didn’t know anybody in Montreal, I had no connections. Slowly, I started to know some street people and that’s how I ended up on the street.
At first, it was hard trying to get along with other shelters like the OBM and others. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. After many years, they started saying that a place for homeless Indigenous will be opening. I asked where and they told me about the first PAQ shelter. At first, I didn’t really like it because it was never-ending drama. But once I got to know Adrienne, the first director of PAQ, I began to like it because she wanted to help homeless people like us.
What I like about PAQ is that everybody gets along and helps each other. We make sure nobody is sick and nobody is out there alone. It’s a nice community, but with different communities together. There are people from Nunavik, Nunavut, and all other First Nations. PAQ helped me to make sure I don’t stay on the street, and it helped me to be more positive.
Now I’m living in the transition rooms of PAQ. When PAQ moved in the new building, Adrienne told me that I could be one of the persons who will live there. At that time, I didn’t think I could, but now I’m here! Matthew, the Transition Coordinator was searching for someone who was not an alcoholic, a drug addict and who will not turn the place upside down. So, I was chosen to live there. I really like my room. It’s nice and peaceful, and there’s no drama all the time.
Otherwise, I clean up, and make sure there’s no alcohol around me. I do my best to not be a city person, because it’s hard to live in the city. There’s too much alcohol and lots of other stuff. I mean, it’s right there, we can just take it! Also, before COVID-19, I was doing a lot of things like going camping. But since March 2020, I’m not so sure of what to do. COVID came so fast and without us having invited it! At this time, I had to participate in the Life Skills program at PAQ and I really liked it. It kept me going. I learned that there’s a different life in the city and a different life in general. That’s what I liked. Telling the truth and being open.
I don’t think I will go back home in Nunavik because too many friends and family members have died. I have nice memories of them but I’m not quite sure how to take it anymore. People are dying constantly. I lost my 3 brothers, my sister, my father and my group of friends so, sometimes, I ask myself, what’s the point of life? What is the point of living and being a nice person when everybody I care about is dying?
I’m also not quite sure what to do in the future. I’m still working on that, because coming from the North and living in the South, there’s a big difference. I was meeting all kinds of people and making all kinds of stuff, but it’s different now. I hope that more white people will go up North to experience what people say. I want white people experience the Inuit life, to live it, learn it and love it. Inuit people will welcome you and teach you. That’s the Inuit way of life. No alcohol, no drugs, just life.
For the Indigenous people in Montreal and at PAQ, I hope that they go back home because the city life is not a life, not for Inuit people. You can’t live the way white man’s wants you to be, so go back home please. And also, stop drinking, being jealous and negative, and go camping and see your community.