Be in the Know About Us

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

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


Meet the Pugal family

February 26, 2019

Rowell, his wife Gem, and their children Jet and Jewel. They love the Calgary Zoo and Tuesday movie nights. They’re also big fans of good food—including local staple Big T’s BBQ.

In October 2011, Rowell moved from the Philippines to Canada in search of a better life for his family. He found work in Rimbey, Alberta, but was not able to apply for his permanent resident card, as he was classified as a low-skill worker. A couple years later, Rowell got a new job: Food Service Supervisor. After a year working in the new, skilled position, Rowell was eligible to apply for permanent residency.

In 2015, when Rowell submitted his application, he included his wife and both of their children. Jewel was only 10 years old at the time, but Jet was 19—making him too old to be considered Rowell’s dependent.

So in 2016, when Gem and Jewel joined Rowell in Canada, Jet was left behind in the Philippines.

The Pugal family searched for a way to bring Jet to Canada, but they were up against some sizeable obstacles.

“Besides the numerous misinformations and misdirections, we were faced with the problem of financial difficulty because some of the immigration advisers or consultants we [went] to exorbitant fees,” Rowell said. “And they [could] not even gave us an assurance that my son will be here.”

Armed with questions, Rowell and Gem attended an information session at the Centre for Newcomers. Nicolle, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and Immigration Legal Advocate for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary, was one of the speakers. After hearing part of their story during the Q&A portion of the evening, Nicolle approached the Pugals to discuss further.

“We felt very relieved and grateful when we had spoken to Ms. Nicolle because of her sincerity and her willingness to help,” Rowell said. “She gave us straight-forward answers. And not to mention, on top of that, EFry services are [free].”

As it turned out, Nicolle had good news for the Pugal family. She told them about a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) proposal to change the age of eligible dependents from 18 to 22 years of age—which could make 19-year-old Jet eligible again.

Immigrant Legal Advocate Program

The Pugal family watched closely as the CIC—which had since been rebranded as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)—moved closer to raising the age limit. Rowell contacted Nicolle in the summer of 2017 when it became clear that the IRCC was going to
confirm the amendment.

“We communicated constantly, and she suggested that we should prepare all the necessary paperworks and all requirements so that when IRCC finally confirm[ed] the amendment, […] we immediately submit my son’s permanent resident application,” Rowell said.

The new maximum age of qualified dependents came into effect on October 24 th , 2017. Jet’s 22nd birthday—which would have made him ineligible again—was only 58 days later.

“The biggest challenge we had [was] timing,” Rowell said. “Ms. Nicolle ‘s suggestion to prepare all requirements and paperworks even before the new revision takes into effect, was very smart, effective, and timely, to say the least.”

Jet arrived in Calgary this December, just in time for his 23rd birthday.

“All of us are very happy, thankful, and [we feel] blessed that after eight loooong years [sic], we were finally able to celebrate my son’s birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s together as a complete family.”

The Pugal family, together at last, is now planning to apply for Canadian citizenship.

“We will be forever grateful to this organization,” Rowell said. “To Ms. Nicolle, and to all the staff, employees, volunteers, contributors, that [comprise] the EFry Society of Calgary.”

Follow this link to learn more about the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Program.