In 1994 Health Canada introduced a new initiative called Building Healthy Communities. This program provides funding to aboriginal communities to help create healthier family and community environments in which all members can thrive. Its objective is to give communities the means to expand and improve the quality of, and access to, various services which will improve community life as a whole. Through Building Healthy Communities, it is hoped that new ideas and practices will be developed. With opportunities such as this, the more new ideas will be created, and ultimately, the easier it will be to make healthier living choices.

This year is the third year of the program, and right now ALL NINE Cree communities in the James Bay are taking advantage of its benefits. All of them have developed projects. For example, there is the new wellness centre in Chisasibi, the special “Gathering Week” for Elders in Mistissini, and the recent healing conference in Waskaganish. It is obvious that the Building Healthy Communities program is a success.

For Crees, Health Canada delivers two components of this program: Mental Health Crisis Management and

Solvent Abuse. For more information on Mental Health Crisis Management, please contact Medical Services Branch, Quebec Region, at (514) 283-5614 or your local coordinator at the Band Council.


SOLVENT ABUSE, also known as inhalant abuse, huffing or sniffing, is highly addictive. The major categories of abusers include experimental, recreational and chronic. Abusers can suffer extensive and irreversible physiological and neurological damage. The most common solvents abused are easily accessible like gasoline, kerosene, nafta, and other household products. Solvent abuse can lead to other forms of substance abuse. It is a key indicator of personal and family problems as well as the need for communities to address youth issues.

The Solvent Abuse component of Building Healthy Communities provides funding and support to communities for prevention, training and treatment intervention in the field of solvent abuse. A community has the right to determine its own needs and can approach the problem in the best manner it sees fit.

A few years ago there was little or no recognition of the serious problem of solvent abuse here in the Quebec region. However, today it is better understood. Now people are more aware of the dangers of solvent abuse. It is considerably more dangerous than alcohol abuse, and must be recognized much earlier among communities’ youth. The youth of today need to have more opportunities open to them. They count on peer support and community help to build new attitudes to make healthier choices.

By the end of 1997 Quebec’s first treatment centre for solvent abuse will open. It will specifically focus on youth and families dealing with this addiction. As well, there is a survey being conducted on the abuse of solvents among the Cree youth of the James Bay which will give us all a better idea of how important it is to take responsibility for this dangerous societal problem. Right now, Quebec has the second highest percentage in the nation of solvent abuse among our youth.

Programs such as Building Healthy Communities and Brighter Futures will enable Native and Inuit communities to work together and find a solution to this problem. For more information on Solvent Abuse Prevention and Treatment Intervention, please contact Medical Services Branch Regional Officer, Native Prevention Program, Quebec Region, at (514) 283-1559.