The end of uncertainty

The Committee on Abuse in Residential School Society has found funding. The drop-in centre for residential school survivors has received a grant from Yukon's branch of Health Canada.

The Committee on Abuse in Residential School Society has found funding.

The drop-in centre for residential school survivors has received a grant from Yukon’s branch of Health Canada.

“It’s the best news I’ve gotten in a real long time,” said executive director Joanne Henry. “We got our funding.”

While the agreement hasn’t been signed, emails between Henry and the regional department confirm the process is near completion.

CAIRS is finally safe, said Henry, picking up the drop-in centre’s reconnected phone to answer a call from a client.

She tells the caller the good news.

“You don’t have to worry anymore,” she told the caller, smiling.

“Every day, people were always asking, ‘Have you heard anything yet?’” she said in an interview. “I just want to thank everyone out there that supported us. In the end, that’s what made me keep working. A lot of times I was ready to quit, but that kind of support is what kept me going.”

Her strongest support came from artist-in-residence Vern Swan, she said.

“See, aren’t you glad I didn’t let you give up,” said Swan last week, when they read the funding email together.

“She is one of my biggest supporters as well,” said Swan. “I believe in Joanne. When you put something in her hands, she actually gets it done. When she became executive director, this place actually began to move again. I’ve brought a lot of ideas to her and she helped me get them into play and helped get us into communities.”

Now, with the new funding, they will be able to sit down and make long-term plans for the first time in more than a year, said Henry.

Which is helpful, because CAIRS was just told it has to move, said Henry.

The landlord of the Fourth Avenue storefront needs the space in about three months.

“But that’s OK,” said Henry, adding a new site hasn’t been selected just yet.

“So, yes, we are closing, but we’re reopening,” she said. “We’re reopening with new ideas, new objectives, new attitudes and with a whole new program.”

That includes many more workshops with a clear focus on survivors’ families as well as themselves, said Henry.

“CAIRS is going to go in a really good direction from here,” said Swan, noting the centre is more than just a job.

“It’s more like a lifeline for the people that come through here,” he said. “It gives them new direction and it’s a bridge between the elders and the young people. It brings them together.”

“It’s like the end of a long, long, hard battle,” said Henry. “Lots of hard work, lots of talking, lots of prayers, lots of support and lots of just hanging in there.

“It means that there’s still a place for residential school survivors to go to. It means we’re going to be here. There’s still hope, there’s still caring, there’s still work.”

But at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Henry had only one thing left to do.

“Go home and sleep,” she said.

Health Canada is reserving comment until the agreement is finalized.

Cheque comes through

The Committee on Abuse in Residential School Society coffers are a little healthier thanks to local lawyer Dan Shier.

He delivered a $1,000 cheque to the organization last week, fulfilling a pledge he made during a five-hour radio fundraiser at the beginning of March.

He was one of the first donators, making the commitment before the show took place, said Joanne Henry, CAIRS’ executive director.

“It was just really nice of him to make the donation,” she said. “It’s come through now and so we’d just like to say a big thank you to Dan Shier and his organization. That was really nice of them.

“It adds to what we’ve got in the bank right now and carries us through a couple more bills.”

In total, $9,000 was pledged to support the organization during a five-hour radio pledge show at the beginning of March.

But by the beginning of this month, only $5,000 had actually come through. There is about $3,000 outstanding.

Dan Shier wouldn’t comment for this story.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at