Celebrating Diversity – Welcoming Larga Baffin Neighbours
This week, one of my team members Sue Garvey and I had the pleasure of visiting Larga Baffin; an important and unique community resource in the heart of Bay Ward. Larga Baffin is a home away from home for Inuit people who come to Ottawa for medical care that is not available for them in the Baffin region of Nunavut. I had a wonderful time meeting with Executive Director Malaya Zehr and General Manager, Mike Coutts who updated me on developments since our community gathering last year.
I was reminded of the many challenges that Inuit people have faced historically through a tuberculosis epidemic, forced relocations, and the multi-generational trauma of the residential school legacy. People travel thousands of miles from small northern communities to receive the care they need. They live at Larga Baffin for anywhere from a few months to several years depending on their medical needs. In that time, they face all manner of very challenging medical treatments, family adjustments and the shock of life in the city. Hearing the stories of the people who live and work at Larga Baffin inspired me. I was reminded of the resiliency of the Inuit people and the richness of experience and culture that they bring with them to our community. I was heartened to hear about Malaya’s commitment to reaching out to the neighbours of Larga Baffin so that the residents’ time in Ottawa can be one of welcome, relationship building and shared learning.
The need for medical services and the home environment provided at Larga Baffin is significant and growing. The facility at Richmond and Carling house up to 190 clients, and several families are housed in overflow motels across Ottawa. To better accommodate the need, Larga Baffin will be moving to a new space, and will be giving up the current lease sometime in the next three years or thereabouts. As they make these preparations, I hope you will join me in looking for ways to reach out to them as neighbours whose presence enriches us all.