Kanesatake addiction support groups moved online

Kanesatake’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups have been operating via Zoom after the Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge temporarily suspended the program on site.

In a Facebook post dated January 24, Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge announced that AA and NA meetings would no longer take place at their building. The treatment centre noted that they were planning to reassess the decision on April 17 and that the move was made as part of a restructuring of Onen’tó:kon’s services. Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge’s executive director Lori Tarbell confirmed that the reassessment would now happen sooner, during the week of February 27.

“It’s all about safety, that’s what it’s about for us,” Tarbell explained. She said that the lodge should be able to continue hosting the meetings in future. “We were evaluating our programming, and I’m having a meeting with the facilitators of the meeting next week to hopefully discuss different solutions for the safety of our residents.”

In the interim, meetings will take place at the Kanesatake Health Centre (KHC).

“From my personal interactions with community members that access these services and from our staff as well who have knowledge of that, it’s a really important avenue for those struggling with addictions to maintain their sobriety,” said Teiawenhniseráhte Tomlinson, executive director of the KHC. “We were talking about what we could possibly do to help them run, and as we were discussing the issue, a gentleman reached out to ask if we could assist him in doing something. We took the meeting right away, had preliminary discussions, and offered a space to operate.”

For attendees, online programming is less than ideal, making KHC’s offer of a room beneficial for running the meetings.

“The meetings are only on Zoom temporarily,” said the organizer responsible for arranging the AA and NA programs. He requested to be anonymous in this article in accordance with AA/NA media policy.

“In my meeting with Lori, I told her that this is too important, we have to have an in-person meeting,” he explained. “We’re going to find a solution, we have to work together because it’s too important for people. People need in-person meetings. The handshakes, the hugs, they’re too important for people who are in treatment.”

KHC is prepared to work with AA and NA permanently, though the organizer said that the program may move back into the lodge in coming weeks.

“It’s going to be taken care of. I’ve gone to these meetings for over 18 years; it’s going to be taken care of,” he said.

Tarbell agreed on the importance of holding the meetings in person, noting that the lodge remains the ideal place for AA and NA meetings. She said the site would be preferred to KHC.

“A lot of people who attend the meetings are previous clients,” she said. “Right now, we’re just evaluating our programming and we’re changing some things, and that’s all.”

As of now, KHC said that the organizer with AA/NA has only requested a space to run meetings. But Tomlinson noted KHC is more than willing to support the program in any way it can.

“Addiction is one of the things we’re looking at to improve our service delivery,” he explained. “For now, they’re just asking for the space. But we’re also exploring other avenues or programs in future that we could offer to improve in that capacity.”


Eve Cable, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door