Every day I am asked to compare Canadian homelessness to homelessness in the United States. Pretty much it’s the same. Geographical climate changes how people live, the “drug of choice” (what’s readily available on the street) changes, and how communities deal with homelessness does change. Some communities try and ignore or push homelessness away, but it never goes away. Then some embrace and look at solutions, and those are the communities having huge impact in the fight against poverty and homelessness.

What makes Canadian homelessness unique is aboriginal homelessness. Because residential schools literally destroyed generations of families Canadian streets are filled with thousands upon thousands of “walking wounded”.

The numbers of aboriginal people experiencing homelessness in Canada are alarming, and if this social crisis continues to be ignored it will only get worse.

I wish everyone could see the aboriginal people as I do. They are a gorgeous people with a gorgeous culture. They are smart, compassionate, and if given the chance – productive. We must look past the drugs and alcohol, and the social differences. They are not like us, so solutions to end aboriginal homelessness have to be their solutions done their way. We need to provide them with a purpose to live and community.

I met Cassien in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Cassien is a drummer. I am a drummer, but not like this. I could tell by the way he stated he was a drummer that it was a respected position in his culture. You could also tell his self-esteem was low. Cassien should be very proud that he had the courage to be open about his situation. Meeting him changed me, and I hope it will change you. I pray this interview will change hearts and perceptions helping all the aboriginal people in Canada.

On the reserve Cassien never had to look for work. He was a respected carpenter and work came to him. He went to Yellowknife because of the lure of Yellowknife being a diamond capital. But because his culture is different he didn’t have the paperwork needed to get a job.

Cassien has tried going back to the reserves. But after living in the city things were not the same. He now survives on the streets with help from his friends.

After this interview Cassien pointed to the cup he was holding and said “this is killing me. I want to stop drinking but I can’t”.

Please watch this powerful interview in it’s entirety and share with everyone you know. I think I left a little bit of my heart in Yellowknife after spending time with new aboriginal friends. Cassien’s story has changed me and I will never be the same.

Thank you Cassien. You’re a very strong man and you should be proud. This interview will help your people and save thousands of lives. It’s an honor to call you friend.

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  • J P

    Showing the plight of the homeless may help bring it to the attention of the many indifferent and I truly hope it makes a difference. However your statement that “Because residential schools literally destroyed generations of families
    Canadian streets are filled with thousands upon thousands of “walking
    wounded”, has no basis and such rhetoric does a disservice to the reasons and results. Please correct your statement.

    I have spent over 27 years leading 3 volunteer organizations that main missions are to help the poor including the homeless, and in this city most are aboriginal.

  • hardlynormal

    Hi JP,

    thanks for your comment. As I travel the residential school issues keeps coming up. I am only going by very trusted information given to me.

    please watch


    Since the residential school crisis is well documented I would be interested in knowing what the basis of your claim is


  • PeopleOfTheFlint

    There is something in the presentation that leaves me very uncomfortable, in particular with this Cassien interview. The triggers that people are susceptible to when you ask about a future can be serious and have dangerous results. Asking someone in a desperate situation about the future can provoke thoughts of despair and even suicide. Further, when he was opening up to you, you pulled away – literally, and shut down the interview. It was heart wrenching to see you pull away and his voice trail off, finally muttering, “whatever.”
    Also, you say “the aboriginal people…..are not like us”. This is a loaded statement with all kinds of room for problematic innuendo. I get that you are sympathetic to the cause, and I encourage you to continue your support. However perhaps a little more consideration to the processes you are implementing and the rhetoric you use, so as to help, not hinder the cause?
    Skan^k^ Yaw^

  • PeopleOfTheFlint

    Hi JP, I’m curious about your correction, since you do not specify what it is exactly that you are taking issue within that statement? What specifically about the statement has no basis and how do you feel the rhetoric is doing a disservice to the reasons and results?

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  • Emma

    Mark, I hear the same statement a lot from aboriginal people here in saskatchewan. I understand their plight, but if they can’t move past this how do they move forward? I also have a question..I found myself in a situation yesterday while I was in my home town of Regina, Saskatchewan. I heard someone crying by the dumpster in my back alley. I approached the woman and asked if she was ok. I then asked her when the last time she ate was. She told me it had been about 3 days. I asked her if she would like a meal..that I would take her to tim hortons and get her a meal. She thanked me. As I left someone else asked me for money. I didn’t give any money, because I feel the money wouldn’t be used for food, shelter. I have given money in the past and have watched them go directly to the liquor store. So my question is..Is it ok to extend a hand out if It’s a meal rather than money? I’m not stating all homeless aboriginal’s use the money for booze, but I don’t want to enable that behavior to anyone.

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