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Want to know more about programs, clients and the unique work we do in the
Calgary community?

This is the place for information on the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary. Have a look at our brochure, annual reports, wish list, infographics and more.

If you have any questions, please contact us at reception@elizabethfrycalgary.ca. We’d be happy to discuss our work in more detail.

Our Latest News

Breaking Barriers: Identification cards

March 26, 2019

Written by: Selwynne Hawkins

Alberta ID, birth certificates, health care cards, and Status cards: these basic forms of identification are often taken for granted. These unassuming pieces of paper or plastic can open many doors—including health care, employment, and housing. So, for women offenders working toward successful reintegration, ID is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Barriers to service

The staff at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary often refer clients to systems and agencies who provide various forms of support, including health care, housing, and basic needs items. But, without ID, women offenders face additional obstacles in accessing these essential resources. For many women, a lack of identification limits the options and their ability to reintegrate effectively within the community. Some of the restrictions are based on valid requirements to provide services and ensure that the individual appearing for services is the person they indicate they are. In some cases, our partners have been flexible and have accepted a photo accompanied by a letter from our organization to overcome this barrier. However, in many cases, the requirements are put in place to prevent identity theft.

Obtaining ID

Though some forms of Alberta identification are free, others are not. An Alberta Identification Card costs around $50, and a birth certificate costs $20 plus registry service fees. Sometimes, ID applications require a permanent address, and sometimes the application process is prohibitive in other ways. For these reasons, ID cards aren’t always accessible, and it can be difficult for women offenders to obtain identification.

Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s Prison Community Outreach Program(PCOP) assists women in jail with pre-release planning, which includes obtaining Status and Alberta Health cards and beginning the process for a birth certificate. Because the birth certificate application is not free, clients must complete the process with the jail or with an ID clinic.

Once released, there are two government ID clinics in Calgary: one located at the Mustard Seed and one at the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre. Here, clients can get assistance with photo ID, birth certificates, and Alberta Health cards. Because of the costs associated with each type of identification, these clinics are limited in the number of clients they see. The Mustard Seed takes around 30 clients per month, and the Sheldon Chumir ID clinic accepts only the first five people of the day—meaning clients have to line up as early as 7am.< These processes exist, but they can be inaccessible, slow, or inconvenient, turning identification cards—a seemingly trivial consideration—into a significant barrier for women seeking successful reintegration.


Pathways to Healing: SAGE

March 24, 2019

Written by: Selwynne Hawkins

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s SAGE Emotional Wellness and Employment Readiness program assists women on their journey to personal success. The program is built on Indigenous cultural values that provide support and healing; interactive and experiential learning provide participants with reconnection to their culture. The format of the program includes daily talking circles and ceremony that direct the processes of learning, and women are given ongoing opportunities to engage in various ceremonies and cultural activities. Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Cultural Resource Persons support building cultural and traditional knowledge.

Each week, participants spend 23 hours with Kachina Raymond-McGillis, the SAGE Coordinator, learning both functional life skills and strategies to promote emotional wellness—including writing, art, and photography. Participants also engage in employment skills that better prepare them for their next steps after SAGE.

For SAGE participants, in-class learning runs in parallel with real-world experiences. The group visits Bow Valley College, where they learn about opportunities for further education. They also take a trip to the YW, where they are connected with the Employment Resource Centre. The final piece of the puzzle is a week-long job shadow where they volunteer as a group, gaining work experience and learning about accountability.

Over the course of the 12-week program, participants change and grow as they develop new skills—and new confidence.

“[The biggest change is] self-esteem,” Kachina said. “And having a clear plan for what they want to do with their futures.”

The average SAGE participant enters the program with a 9th grade education, which is a significant barrier for those seeking employment. After completing the SAGE program, most participants sign up for courses at Bow Valley College, where they can continue their educational journey and pursue the goals they have set for themselves.

The current SAGE cohort is made up of 15 women—the biggest group Kachina has ever supported—and they are currently in the fourth week of the program. They started with goal setting, then moved into communication, where they learned job interview skills, non-verbal communication cues, ways to give informative direction, and strategies for asking clear, direct questions. They have just finished their third week, where the focus is primarily on emotional expression.

Follow along on our blog and social media accounts for updates on the group as they move through the program.


Indigenous Learning: Smudging Ceremonies

March 22, 2019

Written by: Natalie Jovanic

As a non-Indigenous person, I was wondering about smudging and what the Indigenous teachings were on this practice. Since Indigenous cultures are very diverse, the teachings vary between each culture. For this article, Barbara, the Indigenous Program Coordinator at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary shared her story about smudging based on her teachings.

Respect the teachings

These days, we tend to hurry and be always busy. With smudging, it is important to take the opposite approach: assume an attitude of not-knowing, and do not rush. Take time intentionally and listen.

Barbara explained that it is best for non-Indigenous people to talk to an Elder or Sacred Teacher connected with the land they live in, while Indigenous peoples may talk to an Elder from the land they come from. When smudging, especially as a non-Indigenous person, it is important to understand what we are allowed to do and what we should not do. For example, there is a difference between smudging and using plants as medicines. For smudging, we may use sage. However, only Sacred Teachers or those with the rights to medicine are allowed the use of plants as medicines, unless this right is passed along to you to help you heal.

The smudge as a symbol for our connection with the earth

Smudging starts long before you light the sage. Barbara explained that the smudge symbolizes the connection with the earth and it is best to go out into nature and harvest your own sage with the appropriate protocol Barbara picks the sage she needs for herself and The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary during the growing season, the amount varies depending on the year.  Even the harvesting of plants for smudge requires prayer – one should only take what they need to last until the next growing season. We need to take care that we do not deplete nature but that we allow nature to be in balance.

The sage is picked once it is tall enough—but before it starts to seed. The time of year may vary from year to year depending on weather conditions. After the gathering, it is tied up into bundles and hung outside to give the bugs that live inside sage a chance to drop and leave. The dried sage is taken off the stems and the stems are returned to Mother Earth where it was picked or in some cases burned at ceremony.

Protocols and Practice

After the sage has been collected and dried, you may smudge twice a day for cleansing and protection or as needed for prayer, ceremony or healing. Smudging also serves as a protection against negative outside threats. Ideally, one should smudge in the morning when the sun rises and in the evening when the sun goes down. Take a little bit of sage and put it into a bowl. The amount of smudge you use depends on the lengths of the prayer you intend to use. You use a shell, a shaped stone, or a smudge bowl to place the sage within. To light the smudge, Barbara likes to ignite the sage in accordance with the four directions, as she has been taught to do. Once the sage is lit, she cleanses her hands with the smoke. Then, she brings the smoke over her body and arms to cleanse them. She proceeds to bring the smoke onto her eyes with the intention to see good things, to her ears to hear good things, to her mouth to say good things, and then to her heart to finalize her prayers

It is important to know that there is not one way to smudge and that when attending a ceremony that it is imperative to take the lead of the Elder and ask questions. Never assume that you have all the answers because you have been taught one way. There is a diversity within the culture that can sometimes be confusing for non-Indigenous peoples. Respect the teachings you are given and be humble as you learn new teachings.

Smudging is a prayer ceremony that is used to help connect our prayers to Creator, therefore smudging should not be used without the proper teachings and guidance and should be used specifically for the purpose it is meant for. Other medicines are used for smudging; however, it is not advised to use them without understanding the proper protocols and the purpose for using them.

Learn more about Indigenous culture in our next newsletter and upcoming blogs.


New Position: Indigenous Legal Advocate

March 15, 2019

The Indigenous Legal Advocate is responsible for the coordination of Indigenous clients in the
court house and assist them with completing their court orders, assisting through the court
processes and providing resources and case management support.

This role will eventually be responsible for assisting the once weekly on the court floor and managing volunteers and ensuring that clients attending court have appropriate navigation of services.

In addition, the Indigenous Legal Advocate will facilitate and manage a monthly collaborative case management table for high and medium acuity individuals with episodic or chronic interactions with the justice system, mental health and/or addictions and may be experiencing homelessness or insecure housing. The Indigenous Legal Advocate will ensure that culture is prioritized to increase wellness and healing of Indigenous clients.

Click Here to Learn More


Blackfoot Language Class 2019

March 7, 2019

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary offers Indigenous Language Classes in partnership with Pathways Community Services. Efry Calgary will be holding 12 weeks of conversational Blackfoot Language Classes every Wednesday.
Women of all Nations and their partners are encouraged to join these free sessions. Learn the language, the Stories, and the History of the Blackfoot Territories.

Please note, These classes are not For Professionals.

Date: Starting Wed. Mar. 27, 2019
Location: 1731 – 10AVE SW (efry office)
Time: 6PM – 8PM

To Register: Call – 403.294.0737 Or Email – reception@elizabethfrycalgary.ca