An honorable mention was awarded to the Cree Health Board and Social Services of James Bay in recognition of its collective efforts to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle in the Cree communities.

Ron Shisheesh, the Program Officer of Tobacco and Gambling in the Public Health Department, received the award June 7 at the Royal Palace Hotel in Quebec City.

“This came as a big surprise for me!” Shisheesh exclaimed. “It was completely unexpected. I had doubts that this program would obtain any success but it ended up being quite prevalent.”

The quit smoking campaign, “Le Défi J’arrête, je gagne” has existed for over six years in Quebec but was never fully introduced in Eeyou Istchee until this past year. To Shisheesh’s surprise, many have participated but most have not stuck to quitting past six weeks.

“This campaign has been well-advertised throughout our communities and we have trained counsellors available to provide moral support. But I feel we need to put more emphasis on the effects and harm of smoking, such as listing chemicals and additives. We especially need to target the Cree Youth audience,” he said.

“I definitely encourage the traditional use of tobacco for praying and ceremonies but nobody should abuse it. It was sacred up until it became poison a few decades ago.”

Shisheesh advises Eeyouch to reflect more on health and quitting smoking is one step towards a longer and healthier life.