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 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 part of a community. Here at PAQ, I feel like I am back in my community. I intervene with people so that I can understand their life experiences.

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

I feel that having a shelter like PAQ in Montreal is 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 a 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. We must 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 want to become a police officer which is an unusual goal for young Indigenous women. I would like to work in an Indigenous community and 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.  My life goal is 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 clean drinking water. We should help these communities.  While some communities are fine, there also are some that are poor and it is those that need help.

While waiting to return to my home community, I practice traditional customs and arts that I 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 taught my boyfriend to speak Nehlueun. Because of this, I can continue to speak my language at my home in Montreal.