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INRS contributes to a social innovation project on the health and wellness of the urban indigenous people

May 28, 2021 | Julie Robert

Update : May 28, 2021

Québec funding of $27M underlines the success of a joint project between Professor Carole Lévesque’s team and the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre.

The Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) is pleased with the announcement made today by the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, along with the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, regarding the funding of health and social services for First Nations and Inuit in urban areas. Thanks to this $27.4 million in funding, the Minowé Indigenous Health Clinic model of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre (CAAVD) will be extended to the entire province.

“This is an incredible achievement and recognition of what is being done at the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre,” says Carole Lévesque, tenured professor at INRS and director of the Réseau de recherche et de connaissances relatives aux peoples autochtones, DIALOG. “We were there from day one and provided scientific support for this project. It was a real collective effort”.

The Native Friendship Centres of Quebec will be able to draw inspiration from this innovative and reassuring approach to health care and wellness.

The initial instigator of this innovative and reassuring approach to health care and wellness is none other than Edith Cloutier, Executive Director of the CAAVD and fervent ambassador of the First Nations identity.

A social innovation and an institutional transformation

The INRS and the DIALOG Network have been associated with the CAAVD’s Minowé Clinic project since 2009, even before its official opening. The health clinic was created to renew the health and social services offered to the Indigenous people of the Val-d’Or’s city. The idea was to respond to the needs of Indigenous people by offering a place where listening is privileged and where everyone feels safe, thus improving the quality and the accessibility of health and wellness care. 

“The role of the DIALOG team has been to consolidate links and knowledge surrounding the implementation of this project. We have created a coherent body of knowledge in which the practices of practitioners and the expectations and aspirations of the Indigenous people of all ages and genders are reflected. This is an essential basis for reviewing public programs and policies and participating in scientific debates in this field,” explains Professor Lévesque.

“I consider INRS to be an institution at the forefront of social sciences and Indigenous studies. It was essential for me to associate researchers with actors from the Indigenous community.”

Edith Cloutier, the initial instigator of this clinic’s model.
Edith Cloutier

Over the years, the project has evolved, and multiple scientific documents of international scope have been published to document the Friendship Centre’s approach. Carole Lévesque recalls that some 55 % of First Nations and Inuit members in Canada currently live in urban areas.

Integration, characterization and enhancement of Indigenous practices

Professor Lévesque specified that the nature of the collaboration with the CAAVD is not simply a matter of partnership; it is a true “knowledge and innovation interface” that was set up and allowed for the deployment and deepening of all the knowledge mobilized around this project. This relationship led to the integration, characterization and enhancement of Indigenous practices, skills and knowledge.

With this funding, the CAAVD will be able to complete and consolidate its range of services and extend its deployment throughout the province. “It is a model based on openness and conviviality. The interface creates a bridge between an updated biomedical model and Indigenous approaches to care and healing, in line with Indigenous principles of life,” says Professor Lévesque.

Carole Lévesque

“This project is a true innovation on the social, community and institutional levels and a concrete demonstration of the co-construction of knowledge!”

Carole Lévesque

“INRS wishes to reaffirm its commitment to recognizing Indigenous issues in social concerns and to respond to them by highlighting the contribution of Indigenous communities to university research, science and the advancement of knowledge,” said INRS Chef Executive Officer Luc-Alain Giraldeau. “It is important that vital forces of research and various communities come together to carry out innovative projects like this one.”

Edith Cloutier, director of the CAAVD, was recently awarded the highest academic distinction by INRS, an honorary doctorate.