Province Cuts Funding for French-Language Detox Center in Northern Ontario

Ontario Health has cut funding to one of only two residential drug addiction centers in the province that offers services in French.

On September 30, Maison Arc-en-Ciel, located in Opasatika Township, Northern Ontario, northwest of Kapuskasing, will close as it loses provincial funding.

The center was founded in 1979 and has helped young people between the ages of 12 and 24 to recover from drug addiction.

Estelle Bérubé, executive director of Maison Arc-en-Ciel, said the centre’s rural setting allows young people to experience outdoor activities such as canoeing and snowshoeing while participating in the recovery program of 90 days.

More recently, Bérubé said the center began offering services in English and also served Indigenous youth with traditional healing practices.

She said drug use was on the rise and programs like hers were needed more than ever.

« It’s really scary, » Bérubé said. « As it’s not going to get better anytime soon and cutting residential programs, in my opinion, is not a solution. »

Over the past 20 years, approximately 400 young people have attended the centre’s 90-day program.

Bérubé said she suspected funding for the center had been cut for financial reasons.

“I guess they look at the amount of money they put into residential programs, and they think they could help more people with that amount of money,” she said.

Bérubé said she believes Ontario Health could fund a cheaper online program instead.

Maison Arc-en-Ciel is located in the township of Opasatika, in northern Ontario. The rural environment allows young people to participate in activities such as canoeing and snowshoeing. (Francis Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Nicolas Rice was a guide at the center and took young people out into nature to help them recover.

« It’s sad news that the center is going to close because I think for their residents it was an asset to be here, » he said.

« It gives them pride to know they can overcome obstacles in life, » he added.

« Ultimately, it gives them structure, a routine, whether it’s doing household chores or feeding the farm animals. »

Bérubé said most of her staff have already found other jobs, but she will stay until the end to make sure everything closes properly.

« I’m just going to let the universe find out where I belong next, » she said.

No reason given

In an email to CBC News, Ontario Health did not provide a reason for the center’s closure.

“A new community program will be established and it will be a designated French language service provider,” the email reads.

“During the transition, client care will be provided by existing service providers in the district, as well as specialist services in other parts of the province. Current clients will be referred to community providers, who can meet French language needs as needed.

Ontario Health added that it will hold a call for proposals to find a new service provider to replace Maison Arc-en-Ciel.


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