Behavioural Health Foundation and Bruce Oakes Addiction Treatment Centre

Statement to Mayor and his Executive Policy Committee


I’d like to put this information on the record.

In my role as City Councillor, I represent the community of St Norbert and St Norbert is where I’ve lived with my family for 16 years. 5500 people live in St Norbert proper.

In the heart of the community and logistically, is a provincially designated historic site, and on this site is a very majestic towering building. I am sure if any of you have been to St Norbert, you have seen the building as it rises above over every other building in our community and it is capped with a shining red dome. The building is located directly behind the St Norbert Farmers Market site and beside Ecole Noel Ritchot and is situated in a very serene and almost pastoral location, on the banks of the Red River and backing onto a large forest.

Historians and longtime residents of the community appreciate this provincially designated site for many reasons. I will speak to one of those reasons today. The site has been a center of healing and caring since 1904. The building, originally built as an orphanage, was run by the Sisters of Mercy for 45 years. The site transitioned into the facility now known as the Behavioural Health Foundation. The Behavioural Health Foundation is a private addiction treatment rehabilitation facility that specializes in the treatment of mental health, substance, and drug and alcohol abuse. The Behavioural Health Foundation is a private organization funded through grants, the province and private donors; private donors who have given millions over the years.

The Behavioural Health Foundation is now entering its 47th year of operation in heart of the community. I don’t know of a treatment facility that has been operating longer – maybe there is.

I want to share with you what it’s like living in a community with an addictions treatment center located physically in the heart – the geographic center of the community.

The Behavioural Health Foundation has 120 beds in the facility. There are facilities to accommodate adults and children. As of yesterday, there were 44 adults and 15 children on the on the waiting list.

The Behavioural Health Foundation refers to people in the program as ‘clients’. Clients attend the Behavioural Health Foundation and reside there on a voluntary basis. Many clients come through the court system and reside at Behavioural Health Foundation. Clients can stay as long as they feel necessary. The average stay is four months but many clients stay one to two years.

  • There is a school program – a continuing education program and a day care. There are many sweat lodges located behind the building on the banks of the Red River to accommodate traditional teachings and holistic treatment.  And the Behavioural Health Foundation opens their sweat lodges to anyone who wants to do a sweat.
  • The Behavioural Health Foundations owns 6 transitional houses in the community, where following treatment, individuals and families can transition back into society.

The woman who runs this organization is Jean Douche, an angel. We call her an angel because of her dedication to the Behavioural Health Foundation. She runs a tight ship. I believe she has been executive director for two decades and has set up an amazing outreach program that clients can participate in if they chose.

Prior to being elected I sat on many organizations in St Norbert; business, heritage, arts and community. For a small community, we have a very large number of organizations doing great work. Every single organization I volunteered on partnered with Behavioural Health Foundation clients through the volunteer program:

  • Clients help the Pembina Active Living 55+ group set up their picnics, their parties and clean up.
  • Clients help the Heritage organizations with their grounds maintenance, mowing, trimming, and security patrol.
  • Clients help at the Farmer’s Market every single market, crowd control, security, set up and take down, sound systems, site maintenance.
  • Clients have helped the Community Center and Business Improvement zone deliver flyers and brochures through the community.  I’ve worked with clients personally on most of these projects.  We’ve had great laughs and good times.

Physically, the building and grounds are:

  • Mere metres from Ecole Noel Ritchot – the K-8 French School.  The children from the school and children whose parents are in treatment – share the playground. The play structures were funded in part by the Behavioural Health Foundation.
  • 50 meters to the north is the St Norbert Community Centre, with the outdoor skating rink, soccer fields, baseball fields, and tennis courts.
  • 100 meters to the west is the St Norbert Farmer’s Market. Where thousands of people converge throughout the week 6 months of the year.
  • The six transitional houses are located throughout the little community of St Norbert.

In asking many old timers over the past few months – no one can recall any negative incidents.  In speaking with the executive director – she has no recollection of any negative incidents.

Quite frankly – if the Behavioural Health Foundation shut down it would be a huge loss for our community.

This site that has been providing healing and care since 1904 –and is the care and treatment given in my opinion is provided by angels. I’ve experienced the wrath and torment and evil nature of addiction – with a loved family member. And until you’ve been there and walked in or beside those shoes – it’s virtually impossible to understand – but what is clear – is treatment is a soul searching journey that takes desire, time, care and compassion.

The City’s process to get to this point has not been clear to many. What is clear by reading the paper every day is that the City has internal dysfunction, leadership challenges, and silos on Council and in the public service. Quite frankly there are many issues that need addressing, and we have work to do.

Many residents of the St Charles ward and throughout the city sent Council members emails trying to clarify the process when the project was announced. I responded to as many as I could, sharing with them that I too was unclear on the process but at the same time provided an overview of the Behavioural Health Foundation’s work.

And today, we are now clear on the process and we will be voting on the sale of the land.

Citizens of the South Winnipeg St Norbert ward have reached out to me identifying their support to see the Bruce Oakes Addiction Treatment Center move forward. I am now and will be at the meeting of Council supporting the recommendations in the administrative report before us.

I recognize there are recreation issues and want it on the record, that as I have with Habitat for Humanity and other city wide projects will most certainly work with the area Councillor to look at a financial contribution towards supporting replacement of recreation facilities.