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 a 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 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 its 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.