Letter and attachment from the Kenora Fellowship Centre

The letter and attachments were scanned and converted to text to reduce file size and improve legibility. The originals exist in the archives at St. Andrew's.

The letter

Kenora Fellowship Centre
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations

Jan 07, 2022

Westminister - St. Paul's Presbyterian Church

c/o Rev. Peter Bush
325 St. George Street W.
Fergus, Ontario
N1M 1J4

Attn: Rev. Peter Bush - Interim Moderator

Boozhoo, please accept my humble apology for such a late response. it is with much humility to seek your forgiveness as result of our current burdensome situations.

We acknowledge the funding deliberations that were held to consider the work of the Fellowship center and on behalf of elders, patrons, and the community; we offer our humble gratitude in receiving your gift. We acknowledge the legacy of the Westminister - St, Paul's Presbyterian Church and its members. Miigwetch.

Upon opening your envelope on that mid October morning, needless to say it was quite the shock and to be honest, were beyond words. The letter highlighted some of the Fellowship centre history that some of your members have held. Yes, the centre has been a staple in Kenora since the mid 1960s. It has benefitted many with its work of reconciliation over the years.

Also we appreciate your concern for our beloved elders and intergenerational survivors of the indian Residential school system. Daily we open the Fellowship centre doors to them and provide the best care we can but also we see the devastation of such effects of the IRS. I have attached an overview of our work and also a bit of our Pandemic story. Thank for your acknowledging our work in the Traditional territory of treaty 3.

In addition, our “on going” work has been in jeopardy so your gift sure has been timely and allowed us some breathing room. it has been our privilege to walk through this pandemic with the people we serve. We have also been inundated with challenges, staff shortages, human toll, and we have all been greatly impacted by the increased workload and serving in a high risk setting. Thanks be to God, we dare say, we came through the worst of it. We sincerely, hope that all of you have been well through this time of uncertainty.

If you should have any questions after reviewing the centre information, please feel free to contact me at kenorafellowship@kmts.ca. Looking forward to Spring, and Gods continued promises. Miigwetch, Thank you!

Yvonne Bearbull
Executive Director

“In Honor and In Memory of All the Children”

Address: 208 Water St., Kenora, ON P9N 1S4 Mailing Address: Box 447, Kenora, ON PIN 3X4 Telephone: 807.467.8205 Fax: 807.468.9063 email: kenorafellowship@kmts.ca website: www.fellowshipcentre.wix.com/kenora

The attachment

Acknowledge the traditional territory of Treaty 3, homeland of the Anicinaabe Nation as well as the Metis and me, a Dakota winyan, woman.

Would like to acknowledge the recent loss of an Ojibway man who was missing for 2 weeks and recently found. His life ended with trauma. He was a survivor of the Presbyterian operated Shoal Lake Day school, Last year at Christmas, we had the honor of holding a memorial; him and his father participated. They were homeless at the time and we can only hope that the gathering brought them some peace. Prayers for the family as they seek answers and justice.


We operate a daily drop in program and transitional housing and a room and board program. We used to also operate the community emergency shelter but that was so unhealthy that we let that program go on June 30 2016. I believe that action has been a catayist for all of the actions to date and it is very difficult and challenging but it needs to happen.

Currently we are facing Winter and it has been very cold lately and already seeing the effects of those not housed. It is very difficult to witness this daily. There are many with chronic addictions and do not access the emergency shelter nor the detox centre. This age group are the younger generation from late teens to early 30s. Many have been living in the rough for years. We are in the process of preparing for housing elders over 60 who are facing severe health issues. It is too bad that services are not already in place to respond to these types of situations. We truly are in a crisis situation.

Also seeking warming spaces for those who have no place to go after the Fellowship centre closes and when the emergency shelter opens at 8:30. So there is a 4.5 hour time frame and also with lowered capacities which puts more people at risk and requiring day shelter as well.

You might wonder why we close. Well we responded to the community 3 years ago who developed a 24 hour service hub which never really formalized for various reasons. As we did not want to duplicate services, we underwent a revisioning and we committed to our drop in program and more emphasis on engagement, healing and reconciliation opportunities and supporting our residents within our housing programs. We sought to support the elders in our midst with elders breakfasts, traditional foods, and care as we focussed on their care. Our meal programs continued despite our efforts of downsizing our program as we were encouraged to divert people to be new resource. However people were not quick to go and many were suspended from attending and its like we continued to feed those yet marginalized even from that homeless new resource if that makes any sense. Further to that, to this day we have continued to serve 2 meals a day and open the doors daily for our drop in centre / day shelter. We have had many unsettling experiences and talked about writing our covid memoirs as we didn't think people would believe us. Initially we joked about locking ourselves in the centre with the patrons with the onset of the pandemic as other places closed their doors. Well its like we indeed ended up doing that.

It has been extremely taxing on our limited resources, community and patron expectancy to provide. Our staff have been remarkable in their service but we sure have had our share of challenges and shift stabilization issues. Despite our doors closing at 4pm, people continue to remain on the property. We have people coming to the centre at all hours of the evening and night. it has improved somewhat with the new Bearclan patrol now renamed Makwa Patrol. It is difficult considering strategies as people do not have a place to go. Due to our staffing issues, and insurance lability we have to be so mindful of activity on the property. With the ever present threat of drug overdose we have to be ever mindful of this as well. We have had a number of overdoses in and around the center and thankful none have been fatal.

We have also had a number of young adults attempt suicide in our building and thankful our staff responded and were able to help save their lives. There have been many recent completed suicides.

One of our greatest challenges and concerns relates to our young people, many of which have aged out of the child welfare system and onto the street with little connection to helping agencies however are counted in their stats and funding submission. We witness them homeless, using meth and the holistic effects it has on them, the sexual exploitation and exploitation in general. Often they are suspended or banned from other services and we receive referrals to provide service. in some instances and more than not, they are on our suspension lists as well but we have had to consider soft suspensions out of compassion. We continue to provide assistance and with great caution. We have the hope that they can make connection as they view us as a place of safety and trust. We have been questioned as to why we still feed them and that we are sending them mixed messages. We have had opp and makwa patrol dropping off high risk individuals at our door step. It has been hard to turn them away. So we offer what we can, let them rest, warm up or cool down, and welcome them as best we can. So you see it is quite the juggling act to serve this population with compassion yet with a firm stand to promote safety. Very difficult. It has stretched our suspension policy with so many evolving situations coming at us that even now we need to review and adjust. Or throw it out the window and have a free for all which on some days it sure feels like it. On Friday morning on the day that the Federal govt was to decide if they would accept or appeal the Human right tribunal ruling for compensation for children affected by the child welfare system, on our opening, the majority of the people were those who are directly impacted by that decision. It was heavy on our minds that day and so concerned about these young people. Please keep them in your prayers.

It is difficult to stay on track and im hoping you can see how great our role is with the patrons and the things we come face to face daily. Our decision not to extend our hours was largely due to focussing on the people living at the centre and work towards a more successful paths of recovery. There have been times of emergency that we have provided emergency shelter overflow. If you can recall this past February with temps at extreme lows we were open 20 hours a day for 15 days straight providing a warm day shelter and emergency shelter overflow. We definitely saved lives. We were instrumental in arranging these emergency efforts and caring for the patrons who were extremely vulnerable, I feel tired when [ think of this time of high alert and so thankful we did not lose anyone to hypothermia. We did have a few people with frostbite. We received a letter from a young man who expressed his heartfelt thanks for keeping them alive. It was so validating and thankful we were able to provide this support which was unfunded.

On a side note of frustration, we have applied for various emergency covid funds from different sources and we were not successful for whatever reason. Our staff were not even considered for the Govt of Ontario temporary pandemic pay boost for essential workers. That was very difficult to swallow and so sad for our staff who continued to show up everyday to ensure the doors stayed Open. They were very discouraged that as essential as we were that they wud not receive the extra support.

We currently have a number of elders, residential school survivors who are living with us. It is our privilege to care for them in their elder years however we hoped that they would be cared for by family and in a home surrounded by family and grandchildren. That is unfortunately not the reality for many of our people. Too often we see generations of families and that cycle needs to be broken. It is very sad that we do not focus on family as we just do not see that however recently we have witnessed more of this. We hope it continues.

One such family is a family affected by the CJ school and the recent national day for truth and reconciliation walk from CJ to the harborftont. It triggered one of our elders who is also a tenant and he felt compelled to walk despite his reliance on a walker. He walked with his family and for his brother who was not able to attend as his child was buried at the site. Our condolences to this family.

He has since being sharing his story with a reporter. He is of the belief that they are not survivors and doesn't want to be called one and he speaks of the residential school project rather than calling it a school. | will share the initial story with the group if anyone would like to read it.

National day for truth and reconciliation

We commemorated the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We hosted a 24/7 5 day sacred fire and we hosted a traditional fish fry with gifts to survivors and intergenerational survivors. We were on high alert as people were being triggered and we observed so much hurt. We also received a high number of disclosures which we have been so honored to be trusted. From survivors, and actually all age groups. It has been so heavy and now dealing with the aftercare and support. We acknowledge that many have been taught not to talk and it has been engrained to stifle the emotion. We are of the belief that the safe Space we created allowed for that openness to occur and that expressed words and tears are a beginning to healing. Prayers for more healing.

National mourning?

With respect to the recent unmarked burial sites at the Indian residential school sites, it has definitely has had its impact on us as we have a predominately indigenous staff of varying beliefs. We have had to be extremely sensitive and still face our own family histories and the intergenerational trauma. It is so difficult and thankful for so many who keep us in prayer. It definitely has been a heavy burden to bear and consider the emotional well being of our survivors and our role in the community. We have been lighting sacred / prayer fires in effort of providing a sense of community, a place of safety, to share, offer prayers, sing. I wont get into all the specifics of this truly, amazing support we have come to rely on and the impact it has had with the people we serve. But I will say we have held memorials for our patrons who have passed on and we have definitely had so much loss. People have come to respect this space and time and togetherness.

We have supported this space with tobacco and elders have come to support and also for their own healing. We have lit a memorial fire in memory of the late Clifford Landon this morning.

Grand Council treaty 3 has installed Memorial monuments at all residential school sites in the region. Indigenous groups lit 4 days of sacred fires at each site and held healing gatherings of mourning the children, arranged memorial sites with children's shoes and teddy bears like so many other places across Canada and which maybe some of you were able to pay respects. With much respect and humility, At this time residential school survivors gathered and comforting each other like maybe only they could. | recall walking by th Cecelia Jeffrey site one evening and observed the fire and seeing elders sitting around, talking and laughing. Laughter is healing. It was like they found strength at the place which caused them so much hurt, a taking back of power and space. The elders and survivors are so strong and courageous.

Community justice centre

If I can briefly share another evolving situation highlighting the complexity of the regional issues with respect to the overrepresentation of indigenous people involved with the justice system. The impact of the Intergenerational issues and the systemic barriers which have created considerable strain on resources and supports. Kenora as small as it is, has been selected as one of three pilot sites in all of Ontario to develop a community justice centre. The model focuses on the clan system and we have been appointed co chair of the advisory council. Once people accept responsibility for their actions, they can be referred to the justice centre and question to the system is will the new model also acknowledge its own actions and impact. Upon closer review of our stats as it relates to the transition aged youth we were heartbroken to see the impact of loss and grief. That each name was a story of being alone. We had page after page of names and we identified all the commonalities and grief and loss was evident in each life. Children aged out of the child welfare system.

It definitely our privilege to sit with them at the fire and our efforts of promoting healthy or even acknowledging grief is so worthwhile. We hold on to hope for better outcomes for the young people rather than premature death.

Debwe ishkode - truth telling in closing, I would like to share briefly the recent action we have taken in partnership with indigenous volunteers from local advocacy group Kenora moving forward. Every Friday and while planning for the winter resources. We will light the fire every Friday with prayer, coming together, sharing our truths and creating safe space for healing. Plans we hope will include housing the most vulnerable our elders on the street who are faced with severe health issues who unfortunately are banned from services. As well as the recent point in time homeless count which resulted in a 118 individual count. So moving forward every bed is going to count and fundraising efforts and agencies to identify resources which could be used to pay for temporary housing and leasing hotels and spaces. On any given night we have many sleeping around the Property as they feel safe in the proximity. Daily we have piles of belongings as people have no place to store things. Often all some people have is a backpack. There are camps all over the inner city and mostly in the bush which has become their own community and sad that it has become that. So much trust that needs yet to be earned. If anyone is interested in donating towards such a supportive campaign, we can stay in touch. It definitely will require prayer. This is also in part of the regional housing strategy. So yeah a lot of stuff going on. Thank you for taking the time to hear our Truth.

Moment of silence - so if you will, take some time to reflect on what | have shared, the lives touched, the lives lost, the hope for better things to come. Offer a prayer, it is not yours to hold on to. Mitakuwas, all my relations.