Alan Gull guardian angel

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Faced with an additional case of ill treatment just before Christmas, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) now plans to phase out the use of private boarding homes for Cree Patient Services (CPS) by this June.

The latest issue involved six women – three nursing and one pregnant – who were left alone at a Montreal home for over two days without food. The women took to Facebook looking for help.

“They were left there on their own,” said Alan Gull of Native Para-Judicial Services in Montreal.

Gull was a well-known intervention officer and street worker who continues to help First Nations both on and off the street despite his new job. He was contacted by the Cree women on Facebook after they arrived to an empty, unkempt boarding home with no food available to them.

“On that Saturday (December 19), I took over some food from my place,” Gull said. “They contacted me again the following day saying that nobody was responding to them from Cree Patient Services. Normally [CPS] would have to respond after hours. I called a few friends of mine and they gave me phone numbers to call, but no one was answering. I called the CPS emergency line as well and got no response.”

In the end, Gull contacted Keo Sinclair, a former colleague at the Montreal Native Friendship Centre, and together the two of them bought the hungry patients groceries out of their own pocket and delivered them to the home.

“When we got there they were very happy,” said Gull.

Alan Gull

Alan Gull of Native Para Judicial Services

While this is one of many negative experiences of Cree patients at boarding homes in Montreal, Gull says it’s unfortunate that these types of situations become public and make the rounds of social media rather than being handled promptly and professionally.

Gull believes that Cree boarding homes should remain an option for patients who leave their communities seeking medical treatment.

“Not everyone wants to stay in a hotel,” he said. “There’s only two Cree boarding homes in Montreal, [run by] people who came from the north and rent out rooms to the Cree Health Board.

“I really think Cree boarding homes should be an option for Cree patients for people who want to have a good home cooked meal and talk to other Crees,” Gull added. “It helps people who are sick to be able to talk to people, especially in their own language. It helps to take some of that weight off their shoulders.”

In an official statement, CBHSSJB interim Executive Director Daniel St. Amour said, “The Cree Health Board is continuing its investigation of what happened at this boarding home…[and] once the investigation is complete, we will make a decision about whether to start using this boarding home again.

Daniel St-Amour

“We will no longer use boarding homes in Montreal unless the patient chooses to stay there as private lodging,” St. Amour continued. “Right now we are looking for a place that can accommodate all our clients under one roof. No lodging is perfect 100% of the time, but by having most of our clients together in one place, our staff can be more present, we can monitor quality more closely, and we can act faster when there are problems.”

The Cree Health Board’s Communications Coordinator Katherine Morrow also added that employees of the CBHSSJB “need to be reachable at all times, even on holidays and weekends.”

She noted that the CPS’s after-hours number is posted on their website,, and the official Facebook page is always monitored if you like and follow @creehealth.

CPS coordinates the logistics for around 164 patients and escorts per day in Montreal and the boarding homes in question are private enterprises that simply provide a service to the health board. Boarding homes must meet hygiene and food quality standards, ensured by inspections performed by the CBHSSJB.

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