A few days ago, I met Ginette Laberge, director of L’Aquarelle, a women’s half-way home in Chibougamau. The home provides shelter for women who find themselves in a difficult situation due to marital separation, divorce, financial difficulty, domestic abuse or who simply need to be alone for a while to think.

One quick visit to the home convinced me that the women who stay at L’Aquarelle are well cared for. They have all the modern conveniences they need for themselves and their children, who may accompany them during their stay.

Language poses no obstacle at L’Aquarelle since there is always someone to talk to in English, French or even Cree, thanks to the help of Emily Gauthier at the Chibougamau Native Friendship Centre.

Spending some time at L’Aquarelle does not mean leaving one’s family, husband or community. Rather it can be some valuable time to reflect on a difficult situation or rethink one’s life and dreams.

With the help of the qualified counselors, one can regain self-confidence and start again on the right path. Follow-up consultations are also available after a stay at L’Aquarelle.

The home is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so help is always there. A phone talk-line is also available to everyone. The majority of the women and children who use the home’s services are Native. For the ’94-
’95 year, 59.3 per cent of the women were Native and 70.5 per cent of the children were Native. The home works in collaboration with the James Bay Social Services Centre.

During its recent 10-year anniversary, L’Aquarelle organized a brunch during which women had a chance to listen to the past experiences of others who once stayed at the home.

Here are some inspiring comments made by these women: “I really enjoyed my stay… I encourage any woman in difficulty to do what I did and go. It was an experience that strengthened me.”

Another woman commented: “I felt very comfortable there and my stay was positive therapy for me… I am keeping my promises to myself and I will never forget how this place has helped me.”

“I appreciated the warm atmosphere and the fact that I did not feel judged.”

L’Aquarelle offers women a bit of comfort when life has hurt them and a place where women will be welcomed with warmth and understanding. It is free of charge, very safe and anonymity is strictly respected. In conclusion, please remember and believe:

Women constantly need to remind themselves that they are strong. No one has the right to mistreat them. Family violence is not a private matter. We must always say no to aggression. By working together, we can succeed at ending violence towards women.