The Assistance and Referral Centre for Health and Social Services (ARC) is a resourceful and resilient non-profit community organization with strong positive impact that is undergoing a transition right now as Colin J. Coole, ARC’s Founder and Executive Director, retired November 1st.
ARC is a Networking and Partnership Initiative (NPI) managed by the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) and funded by Health Canada. ARC’s mandate is to support Quebec’s minority English-speaking communities in the Montérégie South Shore region by maintaining and improving their access to a full range of health and social services available. Of the 160,000 English speakers living in all of Montérégie, 85,000 (53%) live in the communities that ARC supports. ARC links the English-speaking community of the Montérégie South Shore region to health and social services by:
- Fostering community links with public and community health and social services organizations
- Providing information and referrals to community members
- Actively supporting research and awareness on the needs of the community
- Developing and delivering health promotion programs and activities
- Promoting access through partnerships and representation
“Succession planning is an essential element of organizational sustainability and ARC’s has been well-orchestrated” says Coole. “We have all the good ingredients needed during this transition particularly by having a strong Board of Directors and by having Katherine who has the vision, expertise, organizational history, and good relationships to foster continued collaboration.”
Coole has made outstanding contributions to the governance of the health and social services public network in Quebec by participating in monitoring committees, reviewing complaints and accessibility of services in English. He has served as a volunteer on the boards of the Hôpital Charles-LeMoyne, the CSSS Champlain Charles-LeMoyne and, more recently, on the CISSS Montérégie Centre. He’s also been a member of the Board of the Fondation Hôpital Charles-LeMoyne for more than 10 years. Founding ARC in 2011 demonstrates Coole’s commitment to accessibility, quality and safety of care for the entire population.
ARC’s activities generate a positive response on several fronts including the English-speaking community, health care professionals as well as stakeholders in community organizations, education and public health institutions, and provincial networks. ARC is effectively raising awareness of the need to provide English-language services in the region.
Those who work closely with her know that Katherine Quast is a great person for the role. She is an experienced community development practitioner with 15 + years of experience in official language minority communities and has worked alongside Colin J. Coole since 2012. Katherine brings a mix of leadership, inspiration, operational experience, and passion for community.
“Stepping into unknowns can be challenging, exhilarating, and everything else in between. Transitions also bring unique opportunities especially when working in our Montérégie South Shore communities who have a proud and rich history of united engagement and involvement. By working together we can meet our goals together –and this is where every single ounce of effort and contribution matters not only for the continued growth of the organization but for our healthy and vital communities. ”
According to Sandra Power, President of the Board of Directors, one of ARC’s main challenges is the “continuously evolving health care system, which isn’t always easy to navigate in any language: an increasing immigrant population whose native language is neither English nor French; communication challenges with the older, offline generation versus the younger, online generation; and youth who increasingly identify as bilingual.” No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to serve 85,000 English-speakers spread out across a vast territory, especially with limited resources. ARC’s work in mental health and special needs communities is especially under-supported and the need for people to be able to access these services in English is of particular importance. “The Quebec health care system is undergoing many changes and I believe ARC can help people better navigate them both in the short and long-term” says Powers. And with the rapidly changing demographics, ARC also has a lot of potential to represent the need of not only English-speakers, but other non-French speakers in the region.”
Colin J. Coole says that he’d “like to see ARC continue to grow, serve the community, and become well known as a central pivot point for that community. “ It would also be great, he continues, “to eventually expand into cultural and heritage projects as these too are other ways of supporting a language minority. In the future, with better funding, the possibility is always there.”