Minnie’s Hope – Historic Donations for Northern Communities
DONATION OF $5 MILLION FROM BMO AND HEWITT FOUNDATION TO SUPPORT INNOVATIVE PEDIATRIC CENTRE PROJECT INITIATED BY INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
Cree and Inuit communities in Northern Quebec receive historic boost from BMO and the Hewitt Foundation as part of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation’s major campaign to find unexpected ways to heal
Montréal, June 18, 2020 – BMO Financial Group (BMO) and the Hewitt Foundation are partnering in an unprecedented Canadian project to maintain social pediatric services in Northern Quebec Indigenous communities. Their respective donations of $3 million and $2 million send a strong message to the business community about the importance of supporting the Montreal Children’s Hospital in changing the face of pediatrics in Quebec through innovative ways of healing.
The Minnie’s Hope Social Pediatric Centre was established more than five years ago by and for members of the Cree community of Whapmagoostui and the Inuit community of Kuujjuaraapik, both located on the southern shore of Hudson's Bay. In partnership with the Children’s and others, Minnie’s Hope provides pediatric care and evaluations as well as therapeutic, social and educational programs developed — with the involvement of community members including elders — to reflect the values and knowledge of both communities. This unique partnership approach that focuses on combining their traditions, values and knowledge and dedicated experts has made Minnie’s Hope a Canadian leader in its field.
The $5M in new funding will support the construction of a larger centre to accommodate the growing communities with more administrative, medical and paramedical staff and new services and programs—all offered in a way to ensure cultural safety.
“The Montreal Children’s Hospital is a world-class institution renowned for pediatric healthcare,” said Darryl White, Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group, and Co-president of the Children’s Foundation Campaign Cabinet. “Working with Montreal Children’s Hospital and Minnie’s Hope, we saw a unique opportunity to boldly grow the good alongside our customers and communities. This unprecedented partnership, made possible through collaboration and dialogue with community elders, will double the number of Indigenous families served and provide local resources for Indigenous youth. These outcomes are directly aligned with BMO’s commitment to building an inclusive society and supporting Indigenous communities.”
“This project was initiated, developed and managed by Indigenous communities. We are proud to support this initiative and want to make it happen so that children in these northern communities can reach their full potential,” said Jim Hewitt of the Hewitt Foundation and member of the Campaign Cabinet.
A unique model
As in many indigenous communities, the Cree and the Inuit are impacted by a legacy of colonialism and its long-term consequences. Overcrowding, trauma, attachment disorders, racism and discrimination, mental health issues including high suicidal rates, family violence and substance abuse are among the daunting challenges facing northern Indigenous children and youth. Indigenous Peoples are also the fastest growing population in Canada. Their children are growing up in a high-risk environment and many are suffering.
It is against this backdrop that members of the Cree community of Whapmagoostui and the Inuit community of Kuujjuaraapik came together to create a non-profit organization to improve opportunities for their young people. As a member of the Réseau Universitaire Intégré de Santé et Services Sociaux McGill (RUISS McGill), and backed by a team of experts in Indigenous health, the Children’s Hospital became a natural ally of Minnie’s Hope and has worked in close partnership with families, elders and other community members.
“Everyone is doing a good job to help both children and adults,” said Mathew Natachequan, Cree Elder, drum keeper and father of deceased daughter, Minnie, for whom the Centre is named. “I want the centre to continue, especially for the children so they get all the help they can…Never stop helping the children.”
“I’m really impressed by how well the children are taken care of and all of the activities that Minnie’s Hope does,” said Lizzie Niviaxie, Inuk elder. “To have a place like Minnie’s Hope helps our community. Sometimes kids may not understand what they are being taught but later they might—like seeds that grow.”
The Centre’s team of medical experts, educators, therapists and social workers currently offers pediatric medical services in addition to social and educational programs such as sand play therapy, moms and tots activities, prenatal and postnatal activities, and Head Start and after-school programs for children aged 0 to 17 and their families.
The centre certified by the Dr. Julien Foundation serves 300 children and their families.
“Over the past five years I’ve seen significant changes in the families receiving the Centre’s services and care,” said Dr. Johanne Morel, a pediatrician and former Director of the Northern and Native Child Health Program, adding that the centre has been struggling due to lack of space and human resources. “Now that Minnie’s Hope can rely on a stable source of revenue, we will be able to expand our offering to provide a full range of services and assistance, including advocating for Indigenous children’s rights, and double the number of families helped.”
Dr. Morel noted that in the long term, investing in prevention from an early age leads to significant savings in ensuring the rehabilitation and mental health of vulnerable populations, and Indigenous children in the North are no exception.
A 360-degree mission
The donations from BMO and the Hewitt Foundation will be used to reach of medical care through measures that include expanding the expert team in developmental pediatrics, neuropsychology, audiology, speech therapy and therapeutic support. Complementing their own wisdom and knowledge, the Cree and Inuit educators and clinical assistants will also receive training and support to deliver portions of the programs.
There are also plans to develop a centre of research and teaching excellence that will benefit the future doctors and social workers who may interact with these communities, as well as advocacy for Indigenous youth in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children.
“The Montreal Children’s Hospital is a pediatrics leader, not only in providing cutting-edge care, but in its innovative way of caring for families such as those in Indigenous communities,” said Renée Vézina, President of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Through their support for this unique project that combines traditional knowledge with dedicated experts and advanced medical knowledge and equipment, BMO and the Hewitt Foundation continue finding unexpected ways to heal, a practice embedded in the Hospital’s DNA and at the heart of our fundraising campaign.”
About the Children’s Foundation
The mission of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation is to inspire and mobilize the community to support innovation in research, teaching and care at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the pediatric teaching hospital for McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, and pediatric research at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. Since its inception in 1973, the Foundation has raised over $500 million, which has transformed the lives of sick children through innovative research and teaching projects, and cutting-edge care. For more information, visit childrenfoundation.com.
About BMO Financial Group
Serving customers for 200 years and counting, BMO is a highly diversified financial services provider - the 8th largest bank, by assets, in North America. With total assets of $987 billion as of April 30, 2020, and a team of diverse and highly engaged employees, BMO provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, BMO Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.
Providing products and services to meet the needs of Canada’s Indigenous communities has been a priority since the founding of BMO’s Aboriginal Banking Unit in 1992. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has recognized BMO with five Gold Level certifications for the bank's approach to the Indigenous market and for understanding the business case for a diverse workforce and equitable supportive workplace. Through the establishment of the Indigenous Advisory Council in 2020, BMO works with members from Indigenous communities across Canada to elevate three core priority areas which are education, employment and economic empowerment. This is part of BMO’s broader commitment to double the good for an inclusive society by committing to zero barriers to inclusion by 2025.
About the Hewitt Foundation
The Hewitt Foundation is a private Canadian foundation established in late 2017 following the sale of Hewitt Equipment Limited, the operating company of the Hewitt family since 1952. The Hewitt Foundation is actively involved in creating significant and sustainable change that improves people’s lives primarily in Eastern Canada, with respect to the former operating company’s territory in order to support the same communities that helped build Hewitt Equipment for over 65 years. The Hewitt Foundation advocates change by investing, granting and partnering with registered charities, private foundations and fellow Canadians to innovate and impact the communities in which we live, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
*Photo credit Iva Zimova