The Missing Piece

by aherb1 on April 25, 2014 - 12:49pm

Original Post: The PAQ Organization

Article: 'Culturally safe space’ provides warmth and a friendly ear

Author: DanielaSpinelli


Projets Autochtones du Quebec is a refuge in Montreal and Quebec. This organization is aimed at those who are homeless and without a place to sleep at night. They are aiming specifically at whom they call the first people of Canada or the aboriginals. Since the cities are attempting to gentrify, the aboriginals are losing their homes, their health is decreasing, and they are losing most of their opportunities to work and live happily. The numbers of aboriginals who need some type of shelter is severely increasing. Not only do they provide a place to sleep, but also they assure their guests that their culture will be safe. They make their organization a “culturally-safe place to be”; they pride themselves in making sure people can express themselves in any way they choose. They additionally have counseling services for those who need to talk about any issues they are facing.

 The services they provide include: beds, health services (poison control, mental health), culture support, bilingual service, and need specificity for different people. Their services are available to men and women who are aboriginal, homeless, and living in Montreal. They claim that there isn’t a single aboriginal person that hasn’t been abused in some way, shape or form. They aim to fix this abuse from childhood on by healing the brain and helping them get back on their feet.

            The main aim of this organization is to provide support services and accommodations for aboriginals in Canada. The program also aims to savor diversity and culture so that the people will feel welcome and happy while getting the things that they need.  They feel as if their services will help these people develop and be able to move along in their lives. They also believe that their services will reintegrate the members into society as better and more successful individuals. According to the organization, they are different from most other homeless shelters in that they focus more on getting the individuals back on their feet. They aren’t just a temporary place where you can go to eat and sleep only. They provide services that to them, will help in the long run.

            It seems as if their short-term goals are centered on getting the aboriginals off of the street and giving them a place to stay and feel safe. They ensure that these people have a bed and a warm meal. In doing this, they also let them express their cultural identities. They say “…to be healthy, everybody needs a sense of identity. Right?” This seems to be a more short-term goal as well. Outside of the shelter, their identities are used to alienate them from the world around them. They must face the world as “others” and “outsiders”. Just because they are in this shelter however, doesn’t mean that they will develop as much confidence as they need. When they are in this shelter, they do feel like their culture matters, but this seems to be only temporary.

            An output of this organization would be that there would be fewer aboriginals on the streets and hungry. This organization only has thirty-nine beds total. This means that there will only be approximately thirty-nine individuals off of the street, at a time. This means that the output is not very large in terms of change. They are able however, to provide speedy mental health assessments and other health associated relief. This is a crucial aspect to this organization because according to this article, Canadian aboriginals have a 7-10 year decrease in life expectancy compared to non-aboriginals. This means that they can treat any patients who have a health issue (mental or not). This is important because this will be a much larger output than getting aboriginals off of the street.

            This organization also relies on organizations around the area to consult with and help one another. These organizations do not have to be centered on aboriginals; they can be native-born or not. They are mainly just using one another for support, help, and other shareable resources. Their webpage specifically says that they cannot reintegrate these people without the help of others. Clearly, organizations such as Service Canada and Mission Old Brewery are incredibly influential in this organization. This organization also relies on donations much like other not-for-profit organizations. They use the help of volunteers, trainees and students in many aspects of this organization to bring in community involvement. They are always looking for new people to volunteer along with donations of money, time, and property. They are hoping to get as large and influential as possible. As of right now, there are very limited people who are interested in volunteering at this shelter who aren’t part of the aboriginal group.

            With regards to sociological theories of change, this organization seems to be effective to a certain extent. Emile Durkheim studied different societies where our individualism was present and not. He found that our society functions better as a whole when we have approximately equal amounts of individualism and community involvement. In the case of the aboriginals, it has become clear that their identities are causing them to feel restraint and tension when around non-aboriginals. In order to help bring out more confident feelings with regard to their identity, PAQ has made it a point to focus on increasing individualism and culture in the people entering their refuge. This could be incredibly influential. Durkheim suggests that whenever people are able to experience themselves and their own culture but still remain dependent on society, we see a fully functioning and efficient society. In our society, this characteristic is necessary. Too much individualism however, is not desirable. The aboriginals in this organization are able to increase their individualism while still recognizing that they are needed within the community. The organization does this by encouraging culture and diversity within it’s own area and then encouraging them to become reintegrated within society as a newly confident and successful person. One of the main outcomes that this organization seems to be aiming for is to increase the likelihood that the aboriginals will be confident enough to become part of society. It seems as of right now, they are in need of a reason to keep fighting and this organization accomplishes that, within the walls of the organization.

            Specifically, in Durkheim’s theory of suicide, we see that many suicides occur when there is too little or too much community involvement and collective consciousness. This proves that people are in need of the right amounts of both their individual identity and feeling as if they are part of a something bigger than themselves to help better their mental health. This organization really targets the individuals as people. They encourage their identities to be savored and in no way are they trying to “assimilate” the aboriginals into society. They encourage them to keep their culture safe by encouraging their language use in the center and tailoring how they help each person differently based on their individual needs. This allows the aboriginals to feel individualistic. On the other hand, the only thing they encourage with regards to the community is that it is crucial that the aboriginals become dependent yet autonomous OF the community. They are mainly focused on getting them back onto the streets as new people. There is no discussion of helping the non-aboriginals become more tolerant of these people.  In my opinion and based on Durkheimian ideas, this organization must increase collective efficacy to change the dynamics of the society that alienates the aboriginals. Without this, their outcomes will not be fully effective. Their main outcome is to help the aboriginals feel confident in society and they cannot be fully confident without the feeling of collective efficacy. They need the help of non-aboriginals.

            Collective efficacy refers to the idea that doing things collectively help to change the dynamics of society. By doing so, they are increasing their collective power and feel vested in changing the things that need to be changed. By increasing collective efficacy in this situation we might be able to encourage the aboriginals and the non-aboriginals to mesh with one another in the most efficient way possible. It may also change the dynamics of society in a way that stops alienating the aboriginals and allows them to live their lives freely and without negativity. In my opinion, the best way to encourage this collective efficacy is by bringing the non-aboriginal community and aboriginal community together to work on something important. The areas that the aboriginals are forced to live in are dirty and run down. I believe that this organization could get non-aboriginals to collect resources that would help uplift these areas. Both groups could work together to attempt to make these places better to live in. By doing this, the non-aboriginals will see just how terrible the living conditions of the aboriginals are and they might change their feelings on them. The aboriginals will finally feel as if they are cared about and that Canada wants them to continue living there as who they are. It will also help to show the aboriginals that people are invested in helping them live happily. The non-aboriginals will also feel this change within themselves because they might grow to appreciate these people that they have been alienating.  

            Overall, this program seems to be effective with the short-term outputs that it offers. It provides shelter and safety from their living conditions outside of the organization. It also provides warm meals, health services and other culture-specific services. In general, these outputs are effective in temporary safety and happiness. The long-term outcomes however, aren’t as feasible as they may seem. Attempting to get an entire population of aboriginals on their feet and into the real world is quite difficult to begin with. It is also quite difficult when they are not currently implementing any community-wide strategies. Change doesn’t just come from changing the aboriginals. It must come from the community working together with the aboriginals. According to Durkheim, too much individualism or too much community involvement is dangerous. As an organization, they must put these two concepts together, and while increasing the aboriginals feeling of culture, they must also increase collective consciousness. We can expand the effects of this organization outside of it's own walls. This just might be the missing piece to the puzzle. 



Kivisto, P. (2011). Anomie/Solidarity. Social theory: roots and branches (4th ed., ). New York: Oxford University Press.

Projets Autochtones du Québec: ‘Culturally safe space’ provides warmth and a friendly ear. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2014 (Original Article)

Projets Autochtones du Québec. (n.d.). Projets Autochtones du Québec. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from through Google)


Great article, I think that this cause is of great importance because at the end of the day equality should be put above everything else. While reading your post I learned about the consequences of individualism within any given society; and also the benefits of working together as one. Applying the concept of collective efficacy to this specific situation could be very useful in resolving the problems in the aboriginal community. Personally, I think that the Aboriginal culture is great, I live 5 minutes away from a Native reserve so I get to experience the culture first hand. I believe that the federal government should be the first to offer their help to the Aboriginal population. They are in need of many things to start repairing their broken society, here are some of the more recent things they are demanding; and deservingly so be granted in my opinion.