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Province invests in social services for men on Magdalen Islands

A Magdalen Islands organization that offers social services to men and boys is getting a cash injection from the province.

Hommes et Gars, which supports adult and youth in emotional, social and legal trouble, will receive a $60,000 increase in funding from the Quebec government.

Hommes et Gars offers sexual violence awareness campaigns, does bullying prevention in schools and hosts a basketball program with youth in the community.

Shane Bill, the only social worker who offers services in English at Hommes et Gars, said the funding will help the organization expand and improve what it offers.

He said there remains a stigma around men accessing support services, a problem amplified by living in a small community.   

"Men are not taught to seek out support, and when they do, it's difficult because sometimes other men don't know how to support them," Bill said.

He noted that people can be inhibited because in smaller places their neighbours can see them go in and out of CLSCs. 

Shane Bill is the only staff member of Hommes et Gars who provides services in English. (Supplied by Shane Bill)

Accessing services in English

Bill said CLSCs have staff who speak English, but it can be difficult to fully provide support in a second language. 

"You're talking about your emotions. You might use more slang or different terms and there can be a barrier there," Bill said. "The people I've worked with are really relieved to have that support."

Mother tongue English speakers account for 240 people of the 12,010 total population of the Magdalen Islands, according to the 2016 census.

Bill said he's hoping programs can expand to reach other English-speaking men in the area.

He was hired under a pilot project last year and the money from the province will allow him to continue his work in the community. 

Bill said the funding will allow for a more proactive outreach effort so men, especially youth, can feel comfortable and get into the habit of accessing support services in the longterm. 

Although people typically meet with the staff one-on-one, there are also opportunities for couples and families to meet for counselling. 

Bill said support for the organization has swelled since its inception. Whereas previously no one knew what Hommes et Gars did, the organization is now at capacity. 

"To create a safe place where men feel like they can be supported, word gets around," he said.

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