Indigenous cultural space opens at Calgary addictions recovery centre

·2 min read
Kerry Gladue says a similar space would have been 'huge' if he had had access to one during his recovery journey. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Kerry Gladue says a similar space would have been 'huge' if he had had access to one during his recovery journey. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

A new room in the Simon House Recovery Centre in northwest Calgary has opened as an Indigenous cultural centre devoted to traditional healing.

The room itself is modest, almost rustic looking.

Kerry Gladue, associate director of Indigenous relations and client relations at the Simon House, said it was "built with love."

Clients of the addictions recovery centre designed the space and contributed to its construction. It includes a table for smudging, rocks painted with motivational messages and photos of Indigenous ancestors.

"Every piece represents something in here," said Gladue. "Every piece, someone put their heart and soul [into] — someone in recovery, someone in their healing journey touched this room."

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

The space will be devoted to spirituality, relearning and safety for everybody, said Gladue.

The Simon House, which opened in Calgary more than 35 years ago, has four buildings and 66 beds. It provides three phases of addiction treatment and recovery for men.

Because the Simon House has a continuous intake of people, there aren't exact numbers for the proportion of Indigenous clients who walk through its doors. But Gladue said it's high.

"Our elders and our knowledge keepers and our survivors and descendants are all acknowledging that we're finally being heard, and maybe we can start healing now," he said. "So where do we place people that need to heal? There's not many places."

Having gone through his own recovery from addiction at the Simon House more than 20 years ago, Gladue said that if he had access to a similar space as the new cultural centre, it would have been "huge."

He is a second-generation residential school survivor.

"I struggled with a little bit of the spirituality part because of the mistrust of what's happened to me and my family [and] my mom who was a survivor, and I really had a lot of anger," he said. "This would've very much helped me break through that a lot sooner."

CEO of the Simon House, John Rook, said he hopes the cultural centre will be "a place of harbour, a place of rest, a place of prayer — for anybody from any culture."

Rook said the plan is to expand on the space in the future. He would like to see other agencies take a more focused Indigenous approach as well.

With files from Terri Trembath.

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