Chilliwack Community Action Team

From trail building to relationship building

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  18
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Chilliwack,  Skwah First Nations,  

Unique features:

A micro-grant coordinating committee dedicated to youth, First Nations/Indigenous, and women-focused initiatives.

Q&A with Jade Black, Jennifer Hawkins, and Diane Janzen of the Chilliwack Community Action Team.

“There are so many creative ways to contribute to overdose prevention and for different groups to come together and share these innovative projects and approaches is incredibly inspiring.” - Jade Black, Project Coordinator, Stó:lō Nation

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with with Jade Black, Project Coordinator, Stó:lō Nation, Jennifer Hawkins, Community Health Specialist with Fraser Health and Diane Janzen, Executive Director of Chilliwack Community Services, to discuss the learnings, innovative initiatives, and proud moments experienced while working with the Chilliwack CAT. Here’s what they had to say.

CAI: How are people with living and lived experience of substance use (PWLLE) involved in your CAT?
Jade Black (JB): We’re constantly working to build our network and really connect with peers through community engagement. We’ve hired peer consultants to guide every step of the initiative and we consistently try to close the gap between theory and practice. When we’re planning a project or are involved with community research, we consult peers on the types of questions we should ask in the research.
    From start to finish, we focus on sharing talents and celebrating peer contributions. Peers have power in their ability to share and there's healing in sharing. Somebody being there to value the peer voice and integrate their input has been a super positive experience for us as a group. We employ peers who have identified as First Nations to identify cultural considerations and ask them for insights and opinions on everything.
CAI: How does your CAT engage with local Indigenous communities?
    Indigenous people are the main population we serve – with fatal overdose rates disproportionately represented in these communities. Our priority is serving Indigenous clients, so cultural considerations are engrained in all our processes. We try to highlight the importance of these. We’ve identified a need to do what we can to shift the narrative and support those who are facing concurrent struggles. Our CAT is focused on doing work to mitigate the high overdose rate and the way that Indigenous voices are addressed in our community – not only in a professional setting but in casual settings as well.
    We practice a trauma-informed approach, recognizing what Indigenous people in Canada have endured, and we seek to understand the context in which they interpret wellness and social determinants of health. It's about language, and constantly picking our head up and asking what it may sound like to an Indigenous person. I’ve learned it’s important to give people the space to trust that they know what they need.
Diane Janzen:
    Addressing the needs of First Nations and Indigenous communities is a key element of both the development of our overall overdose strategy and in the projects we support. Sto:lo Service Agency is a member of the CAT and was also a member of the Micro-grants Committee. Our overall Chilliwack overdose strategy consulted widely with First Nations and Indigenous organizations and entities in Chilliwack. Five out of the six mini-grant projects funded worked with and supported overdose prevention with First Nations and Indigenous communities. For example, the Skwah First Nation project provides Sto:lo cultural and traditional teachings to deal with substance use barriers through Naloxone training and safety and supports.
CAI: Can you speak to a time when you’ve been proud to be a part of your CAT?
Jennifer Hawkins: We’ve had some really great innovative projects come out of the micro-grant initiative, including the Youth Trail Building initiative which originally funded a partnership with the Chilliwack Trails Society, United Way, Tzeachten First Nations, and Sto:lo Service Agency hosting trail building and /mountain biking activities that incorporated informal harm reduction and substance-use conversations between youth and medical professionals and counsellors. One ER doctor, who has been co-leading the initiative, says that great work is done on the trails and from there it’s easy to move into counselling discussions with the kids. There’s no awkward broach of the topic of drugs and the program received a ton of positive feedback.
CAI: What’s one of the greatest successes of your CAT?
JB: Our physician education night was a unique opportunity where we brought local doctors and peers together in the same room to breakdown stigma. Doctors spoke about alternative pain management and peers shared their unique journeys and the barriers they face. We discussed the importance of trauma-informed training and cultural acknowledgement going into the history of colonization and the impact that has had on so many people. I think it demonstrated how essential it is to build rapport with other stakeholders in your community who are passionately invested in a better outcome when it comes to overdose prevention.
    Never underestimate the power of conversations and relationship. We must meet people where they are and be candid about how ready people are to have these conversations. This means embracing a dialogue with folks who are active in addiction, physicians, and a community, in this context, resistant to change. What keeps me motivated is change with little wins – progressive steps forward when it comes to dialogue and narrative around coping addiction recovery and contradiction.
    There are so many creative ways to contribute to overdose prevention and for different groups to come together and share these innovative projects and approaches is incredibly inspiring.


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