Stopping Human Trafficking, an Urgent Challenge for Society

An open meeting, sponsored by the Quebec SNJM Justice and Peace Committee and held in Longueuil last April, was greatly appreciated by the SNJM Sisters and Associates in attendance.

Ms. France Laforge, Coordinator of CATHII (Action Committee against Internal and International Human Trafficking), used concrete examples to illustrate the strong sense of collaboration that has developed, through the years, between organizations working to find and support victims of human trafficking. She noted, “Examples such as these give meaning to my work and affirm the relevance of our organization.”

She recalled the mission of CATHII, founded fifteen years ago by faith groups and religious communities, including SNJM’s. Dedicated primarily to research, consciousness raising, and education on internal and international human trafficking, the organization established the Quebec Coalition against Human Trafficking in order to provide direct services to victims.

During her presentation, Ms. Laforge highlighted important milestones experienced by the organization that tackles the issues of sexual exploitation and forced labor, two forms of modern slavery. She noted that finding ways to intervene directly with survivors of trafficking offered strong motivation for the creation of the Coalition in 2013.

Twinning resources to better help victims of trafficking

Ms. Carmen Fontaine, Coordinator of the Quebec Coalition against Human Trafficking, stressed the objectives set by the organization: to improve the identification and protection of victims, to ensure adequate support, to promote awareness of the issues surrounding trafficking, and to improve collaboration at the level of existing resources and services.

She also spoke of the organization’s guiding principles which recognize that human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights and an affront to people's dignity. She explained that the overall approach favored by the Coalition revolves around four P’s: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.

The goal is simple: develop trusting relationships to foster close collaboration and coordination among the various actors to better assist victims.

Funding, a crucial issue

The meeting helped participants become aware of present issues, notably:

  • the difficulty of finding adequate funding,
  • the relevance of maintaining a neutral platform as exemplified by the Coalition, and above all,
  • the need to make every effort to deepen and understand the work of all other agencies in order to better assist victims.

Source: Julie Tétreault

Porcelain Painting, an Art to Be Discovered

Exhibition of works by Joséphine Viau

Did you know that SNJM’s were pioneers in the teaching of porcelain painting in boarding schools in Quebec? While this art was flourishing in Europe and in English-speaking America, SNJM students, towards the end of the 19th century, were the first students in Quebec to benefit from this technique.

Inspired by photos or actual models of the time, the students exercised their creativity using slabs of porcelain imported from Austria, Germany and France (especially Limoges). Each work required three or four firings, if not more, depending on the colors applied. One can only imagine the amount of time and patience required to produce these treasures.

 Temporary exhibition

The temporary exhibition, being presented from June 12 to September 2 at Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue Cocathedral Museum in Longueuil, will focus on a part of Joséphine Viau's work. This daughter of the founder of Viau Biscuits began her studies at Hochelaga Boarding School in 1881 and went on to become an SNJM Sister in 1893. The exhibition, produced in collaboration with the City of Longueuil, will present pieces linked to the theme of water.

In the context of the 2019 SNJM archives exhibition, several other pieces illustrating Joséphine Viau’s talent will be on display in various places at the Congregational House. Works by other SNJM artists will complete the overview of this very particular aspect of SNJM art education.

By promoting this teaching in its boarding schools, the Congregation enabled Sisters to acquire skills from renowned teachers and to pass these skills on to both students and other religious Congregations.


What happened to this art?

It is evident that the practice of this art in boarding schools addressed mainly girls of the upper class society of the time. The situation changed with the Second World War. Acquiring white porcelain from Europe became more and more difficult and expensive.


At the same time, local earthenware or sandstone clays and commercial glazes became more popular in Quebec. Easier to use, these materials made it possible to simplify the process and to teach ceramic techniques to a larger population. In addition, more public schools were founded and education became geared to a broader clientele. Time allocated to the arts no longer allowed young people to specialize in any particular technique.


Fortunately, it is always possible to stimulate students’ creativity. They can model objects from clay, fashioning and decorating them in simple or complex ways, and thus experiencing the art of firing objects, one of humanity’s oldest art techniques.

Breeding Crickets, a Solution for the Future?

Durocher-Saint-Lambert College Educational Project

The Durocher Saint-Lambert Cricket Project has been running well for over a year now. This project is part of the Grillonnerie (Cricket Farm) project of the Friends of the Montreal Insectarium. The project consists of setting up a small cricket farm as a teaching tool aimed at introducing students to entomoculture and to entomophagy, the eating of insects.

This practice, still far from common, has been identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as a solution to certain environmental and food security issues. Through the project, Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert hopes to educate young people about this new trend. The Collège positions itself as a pioneer in this field, since it is one of only two schools in Quebec participating in this very first pilot project.

". . . more concrete and relevant learning"

"Making young people aware of new practices that address global issues and offering them the opportunity to collaborate with experts is one way we can make learning more practical and relevant," says Francis Roy, Executive Director of the Collège.

For this reason, an area of ​​the school has been reconfigured to accommodate the breeding of crickets in a safe place for the Secondary IV students. The students are supervised by their teachers as they learn about the breeding process in their environmental science and technology course. Several educational activities related to the theme of entomophagy are components of the program.

The students take part in the various stages of the process, right up to the transformation of the crickets into flour. The process is documented by means of a research project in which the students reflect on issues related to entomophagy. They are also offered the opportunity, if they so desire, to taste insect-based products currently on the market.

Source: Durocher-Saint-Lambert College

Education of Young Women: At the Heart of the SNJM Mission

2019-2020 SNJM Archival Exhibition

Last year, as a team of archivists, we illustrated in our Educate to Liberate exhibition various ways of being an SNJM educator.  This year we have focused on the founding mission of the Congregation: access to education for girls.

We have gathered together significant elements to demonstrate Mother Marie-Rose's inspiration to provide a well-rounded education. This beautiful adventure made us aware of the ingenuity of the SNJM Sisters whose patience, audacity, and determination helped them to surmount numerous difficulties!

Thus, with this new exhibition, we illustrate how the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) established schools to overcome the lack of such institutions at a time when there was no structured system of education.

Our research enabled us to highlight the initiative of the Sisters in helping young girls to develop their full potential and to satisfy their thirst for knowledge at a time when girls were offered few or no such opportunities.

  •  Young students searching to deepen their knowledge and talents in music, the arts, or science came to rely on SNJM’s to develop programs of study.
  •  At the request of those who wanted to become teachers, SNJM’s opened teacher training colleges.
  •  SNJM’s developed home economics courses to meet the needs of families who wanted future housewives to have an appropriate, but well-rounded education.
  •  In response to the demands of the work world, which gradually included the presence of more and more women, SNJM’s prepared courses in stenography and typing, followed by a complete commercial formation.
  •  To promote women's access to higher education, including university, SNJM’s became affiliated with these institutions. They advertised the training given to young people and / or opened universities themselves.

The new archival exhibit illustrates the groundbreaking approach of the SNJM’s who dared, over time, to fill in the gaps in education by developing diverse curricula and establishing institutions, from elementary schools to universities. They thus favored the autonomy of women so that they could actively contribute to the development of their community.

Source: Geneviève Noël, Director of the SNJM Central Archives Department

Living an experience of inner transformation

Interreligious dialogue

Throughout 2018-2019, the Spiritual Animation Committee of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) has helped us respond to the invitation to reflect on what we can learn from people of different cultures, races and religious beliefs.

The Acts of the 2006 General Chapter, on page 5, state: "We experience the richness that comes from sharing between cultures and religions. At the same time, we are faced with intercultural and interreligious conflict that threatens our world with violence and war.” Inspired by these words, the committee planned six meetings to open doors to a dialogue which seems more necessary than ever today. Pope Francis has spoken frequently about this dialogue, including during his recent visit to Morocco:

“This entails encountering and accepting others in their distinctive religious beliefs and enriching one another through our diversity, in a relationship marked by good will and by the pursuit of ways we can work together. Understood in this way, creating bridges between people – from the point of view of interreligious dialogue – calls for a spirit of mutual regard, friendship and indeed fraternity.”

                                                                                                           (March 30, 2019)

"Faith is a gift from God"

At the various meetings we welcomed Jewish, Christian (Anglican and Orthodox) and Muslim women who, in the name of their faith and their personal journey, answered the question, "Who is God for me?”

In presenting the project of interreligious dialogue, Sister Lise Bluteau quoted the Sufi mystic Ibri Arabi: "God is too big to be locked into a creed.”

This was echoed by Ms. Samia Amor, a Muslim witness at one of the meetings:

"Faith is a gift from God. Religious plurality and the diversity of people, languages and cultures are part of the divine plan that invites us to converse together. For God is like a multi-faceted crystal and each religion presents a different face of God. Coming together to share allows us to see all the facets together. "

Meetings marked by openness . . .

The meetings were marked by simplicity, mutual openness, dialogue and the sharing of life stories. Each meeting included a time of prayer based on sacred texts that helped us experience an encounter with the God we share in common. Because of these meetings, we and the women witnesses became sisters in faith, professing belief in one God.

The six meetings helped us live an experience of inner transformation. As so well stated by one participant, "They opened our eyes, minds and hearts." They also raised our awareness of both the distinctive and similar elements in our various religions. And, above all, they gave us the desire to continue sharing in small groups in order to get to know each other better.

Source: Sr Marie-Paule Demarbre

News about the Syrian Families Welcomed in Longueuil

It has already been more than two years since we welcomed two Syrian families. It is certainly time to present an update on their situation.

We first welcomed the Alhanout family on February 17, 2017. The father, Elyas, is now a sexton at Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue Parish. He had previously worked for several months at the Chez Lise rooming house. However, his parish work provides a much more familiar environment for a Melkite priest and he is very pleased with it.

As far as finances go, the family situation is improving. Antoinette, the mother of the family, has successfully completed her program of francization. She quickly found a job in a small grocery store near her home. Unfortunately, due to a decrease in clientele, she recently lost her job and is looking for a new one.

Young Marcel, who spoke at the launching of the SNJM Corporate Stand on Migrants and Refugees, has found a new job at the Dorval airport that suits him well. His brother Michel is finishing his first year of studies in biology at Concordia University. He is devoting all his time to studying so that he may successfully pass his end-of-term exams.

In short, the family is doing well and is continuing to adapt to Quebec society.

Successful Integration of the Allaham Family as Well

As for the young Allaham family, Mousa has been working very hard in his field of carpentry-cabinetmaking. Miray, the mother, is enrolled in classes. She hopes to be able to find a job at Canada Services at the end of her training, which is scheduled for September.

Little Mira is currently in grade 1 at a very good school. She is as lively and cheerful as ever. Baby Michel took his first steps at home and is now walking at the private family daycare he attends not far from home.

Aside from the flu and "bruises and scratches" associated with daycare and school life, everyone's health is good. The family is preparing to apply for Canadian citizenship.

For us, members of the Chemins d'accueil de Longueuil Committee (Longueuil Welcoming Committee), it is easy to report this very positive and encouraging information. We are ever mindful, of all the adaptation, integration, and renunciation that refugees experience every day in a new and foreign environment, far from their extended family and their culture!

These are really great people whom we will always hold in our hearts and in our prayers.

Source: Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil

Education, a Powerful Channel for Social Change

Report on the UN Commission on the Status of Women

The SNJM representatives of Development and Peace, an NGO (non-governmental organization) to which the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary of Canada (SNJM) are affiliated, asked Hanane Hakkou * and Kim Piché * to be the SNJM delegates to the 63rd edition of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. These two women came back encouraged by their experience, despite the sometimes disturbing findings on the situation of women throughout the world.

Under the theme "Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls", the Commission hosted numerous conferences at which groups were formed with the intention of including people from diverse countries. This formula had the advantage of highlighting the progress made in the various countries, even if the progress was sometimes very modest.  Besides this, it also illustrated the amount of work that still needs to be done in many areas.

Major challenges

Even countries, such as Norway and New Zealand, which are recognized for their laws favoring gender equality, face universal barriers:

  • Inability to count on a system that can measure and track progress in women’s empowerment in a comparable way across countries. Many examples were given to illustrate that economic and social indicators tell only part of the story.
  •  The difficulty of changing mentalities formed by family, as well as cultural and social traditions.

The two Quebec SNJM delegates noted that the weight of stereotypes is more powerful than we might think.  In Africa, a woman may stay at home because her mother-in-law firmly believes that, if the woman works outside the home, her children will be neglected. In developed countries with a parental leave program, this program is used almost exclusively by women. The popular belief, that the presence of women is of paramount importance to infants, seems to overshadow the results of studies highlighting the real benefits of a father's presence.

Education, an impetus for social change

Faced with the enormous challenge of counterbalancing social prejudices and perceptions, the speakers constantly proposed one solution: education! In developed countries such as Sweden, social media awareness campaigns are increasing.

 "I realize that education is THE factor of change in order to alter mentalities, foster a more open society, provide better conditions for all, consider the contribution of women to the evolution of society, and better respect women's rights, "says Hanane Hakkou.

She adds, "I can’t help but marvel at Mother Marie-Rose's vision and the tremendous work that SNJM Sisters have done in support of education for all, especially poor and disadvantaged girls. I am very proud to see that SNJM insights and achievements over 175 years have paved the way and continue to be relevant, as seen in the deliberations of this Commission, "she said.

Activists described as "terrorists"

Many topics were discussed at this 63rd Commission:  violence against women during wars, genital mutilation, early marriage, prostitution and violence against migrants, as well as human trafficking. These topics highlighted the gap between countries, especially because of cultural traditions and characteristics, but also because of political will.

It certainly causes one to wonder when, in some countries, the president himself qualifies women as "terrorists" for the sole reason that they advocate for the rights of women who are victims of rape or ill-treatment by soldiers and combatants. This state of affairs is all the more alarming since it seems to extend from Chechnya to countries in Latin America. Indeed, about 60 women are currently imprisoned because they promote the rights of women.

Hanane and Kim agree that much could still be said about their enriching experience. As they mentioned during their presentation at the Congregational House this past March, there are several reasons for hope. And there is also a need to remain vigilant, as Simone de Beauvoir so aptly said: 

"Never forget that a political, economic or religious crisis is enough to have women's rights challenged. These rights are never acquired. You need to remain vigilant your whole life long.”

*Hanane Hakkou, a Moroccan Muslim woman, has lived in Quebec for 19 years. She is Financial Controller for the General Administration of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).
*Kim Piché works in the Office of Social Pastoral Ministry of the Diocese of Montreal as assistant and coordinator for the English-speaking network.


During this Lent, Development and Peace has chosen "Share the Journey" as the theme for its campaign. 

There are 68.5 million people in this world who have been displaced from their homes, many of these from their own countries.  

Contrast this with the population of Canada that in 2018 included 37 million persons. Development and Peace joins Pope Francis and the United Nations in asking us to welcome those who have been displaced. The Pope urges us to cultivate a "culture of encounter" and tells us that when we welcome  the stranger we are welcoming Jesus.

View a video here.

During Lent we shared stories of first encounters with persons from another culture and of how we felt gifted and enriched by these encounters.  One lady from Ghana said that the first words spoken to her were "Welcome, my country is now your country." That woman now works with refugees and welcomes them to her country and continues to share her experience.

All of us are invited to "Share the Journey" to be in solidarity with our displaced sisters and brothers through prayer, taking part in fund-raising activities such as walks, donating, and, should we come face to face with a displaced person who has entered Canada, say "Welcome".

Source: Ms. Dorothy Guha

Other articles in the section News
Stopping Human Trafficking, an Urgent Challenge for Society
Porcelain Painting, an Art to Be Discovered
Breeding Crickets, a Solution for the Future?
Education of Young Women: At the Heart of the SNJM Mission
Living an experience of inner transformation
News about the Syrian Families Welcomed in Longueuil
Education, a Powerful Channel for Social Change
“Sowing Hope for the Planet” (Title used by the International Union of Major Superiors - UISG)
Concrete Initiatives at PSNM to Improve the Plight of the Planet