Posts - Communitas Montreal


Communitas receives the Joe Mell Award for its 25 years of service in the community

Maison Cross Roads is a Montreal-based organization that assists in the social reintegration services for both men and women. Communitas works for the successful reintegration of those who have spent time in prison. Similar goals; different services. Community involvement and reintegration is central to both.
Almost 40 years ago Joe Mell founded Maison Cross Roads. In 2011, the organization decided to show its appreciation for its founder by establishing an award to commemorate Joe Mell’s name. This year, Maison Cross Roads decided to recognize Communitas for its 25 years of service to the community.
Below are the opening remarks by Merris Centomo:
Good evening, everyone, and welcome. My name is Merris Centomo. I am the Executive Director of Maison Cross Roads.
We are gathered here to highlight the exceptional contribution of Communitas over the last 25 years in assisting with the social reintegration of the Anglophone prison population. Communitas’s founder Mr. Peter Huish and his team of engaged volunteers have dedicated decades to their work with offenders through chaplaincy services, their weekly group called Open Door, the Circles of Support and Accountability, and much more.
Communitas is a truly volunteer-driven, grassroots organization. They aim at trying to create an integrated and crime-free Montreal. Maison Cross Roads has witnessed over the last decades the support offered by Communitas to our clients and we are thankful for their contribution.
Their volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, but each of them comes to Communitas as a concerned, caring fellow citizen.
In 2011 Maison Cross Roads created the Joe Mell Award. Mr. Mell is the founder of Maison Cross Roads almost 40 years ago. As well, he dedicated much of his life to supporting individuals in conflict with the law as well as their families.
In honor of Mr. Mell, it is with great pride that Maison Cross Roads has chosen to present the Joe Mell Award to Communitas Montreal for 2024.
Yes, there was a grateful acknowledgment of the award by Communitas’ President Michele Rattray-Huish. That response can be found on Communitas Facebook page in the coming days. In short, it was humbly accepted, but with enormous joy to a nice crowd that included a score or so of Communitas directors and volunteers.
• Bravo Joe Mell
• Bravo Maison Cross Roads
• Bravo Communitas.
There were a lot of smiles. Lots of laughter, and people getting to know each other – even more. It is important to remember the positive impact of small community-focused organizations. It is easy to overlook these small groups in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. However, the impact is crucial to keep us in community with each other. Kindness matters, always.
Congratulations to the volunteers who help make Communitas so special.


The Bernardo Affair and the Tories


The Bernardo affair continues to nourish the Conservative Party’s hunger for electoral advantage, as the linked 6 minute video and news article reveal.

Conservative MP Frank Caputo’s transparently disingenuous video feebly poses as a good faith initiative to alert the public to a correctional system gone awry, but quickly reveals itself to be an extended campaign attack ad aimed at the Liberal Government. This member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, no doubt traveling, eating, and lodging on the public dime, has exploited and perverted the special permission which the Corrections and Conditional Release Act gives legislators and judges to enter penitentiaries: rather than exercise s.72’s mandate to protect prisoners from abuse through external oversight of the system, he opted to invade Paul Bernardo’s cell and take inventory of his private property, then sniff around the grounds for evidence that Correctional Service Canada commits the high crime of allowing sentence-serving persons some small diversions as they while away the empty years. What a pathetic display. I am particularly entertained by the laughably phony expressions of astonishment and revulsion when MP Caputo discovers, while poking around in Bernardo’s cell, that the prisoner approaching the cell door is…gasp…Bernardo. I guess he couldn’t see that coming.

Pathetic also is the pretense that Conservative leader Poilievre and his party have not already received satisfactory explanations of the Bernardo transfer to medium, which CSC’s official review found was decided quite correctly by the competent authority exercising a statutory power beyond the reach of the government’s influence or orientation. On this point, Caputo dissembles shamelessly, as if mentored by a certain American ex-president.

Prison lawyers and advocates have actively been debating the wisdom of a public reply, fearing it could draw new attention to the video by people who had not already heard of it. We had hoped the despicable video would merely excite Caputo’s MAGA-type supporters, then fade away. But that has not happened. We learn from the linked article that a clutch of opportunistic Conservatives, supported by a fellow traveler from the Bloc Québecois, now are forcing Parliament’s public safety committee to hold an emergency meeting on March 11 to reconsider access to medium security for notorious violent criminals. Their primary concern is not that a medium security environment could enable the offenders to escape; nor even that the offenders in question have failed to satisfy the statutory and policy criteria for transfer. These politicians object to the use of medium in notorious cases because it doesn’t punish enough. Their argument is that offenders such as these should normally serve their full sentence (usually life) in the least comfortable, most punishing setting the system offers. Throw away case management, cascading to lower security, CCRA s.4’s ‘least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders.’ Ensure that the worst offenders are severely chastised throughout the period of incapacitation.

We’ve turned a corner here. Even in the hardy day of the cat ‘o nine tails displayed in the Kingston Penitentiary museum, frank, unforgiving punishment was not used as payback for the crime, but only to quell refractory behaviour during the sentence. Of course, we’ve already seen the sadistic demand of punishment for punishment’s sake in recent times–Poilievre clamored for it following the Bernardo transfer. CSC’s official Bernardo review was supposed to disarm that perspective and put it to bed, leaving Poilievre looking like a hysteric. Now we find that the Conservatives are serious about calling for a sea change in penitentiary management, if not achievable now, then during a Conservative term in office. I am not aware of a moment when sadism was Canada’s official correctional policy, but, as we see in the U.S., the times appear to be opening the door to novel and surprising possibilities.


Sou’Wester Winter 2024


The Winter 2024 Edition of the Sou’Wester is now available online by clicking on the image.  Read about Communitas’s Christmas party, Christmas cards for the incarcerated, Wab Kinew’s victory message, former Federal Justice Minister David Lametti’s legacy, and much more.  Enjoy and send us your feedback.  [email protected]SouWester cover winter 2024



To our dear friends and supporters!

2023 is almost over and Communitas has much to report on!

Open Door – Our signature program continues to draw 25 to 30 participants each week. From April 2023 – March 2024, 890 persons attended Open Door, including 434 ex-prisoners and prisoners escorted from two minimum security penitentiaries (Federal Training Centre and Archambault Minimum). Prisoners on Unescorted Temporary Absence (UTA) from the prison continue to choose to attend Open Door even though they have a choice of outings. Our volunteer attendance is also very consistent, and we regularly welcome enthusiastic newcomers.  Finally, we are delighted that four new escort drivers are being trained!

Table Talk – Another great success marking 2023 has been Table Talk, our free Friday lunch, which takes place at our office in the Undercroft. Attendance has grown from an average of 8 attendees to 15 or even 20 persons each week. Volunteers step up to prepare a hot meal, and somewhat like Open Door, you never know what to expect – it’s an enjoyable surprise!

Chapel Activities – In other good news, we have added another Minimum Security Prison to our Chapel Activities: our volunteers now visit Archambault Minimum one afternoon a month! We continue to visit the two prisons (Minimum and Medium Security) at Federal Training Center in Laval each Thursday night.  As more volunteers have been certified by the Correctional Service of Canada, we are now able to do more ‘prison in-reach.’ Both inmates and volunteers continue to express their enjoyment to the Chaplains at the three institutions.

One-on-one Pastoral Accompaniment – This year we have doubled the number of one-on-one pastoral visits to incarcerated men. This is also an opportunity to identify men wishing to have a Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) when they are released.

As we start our 2023 annual fundraising drive, Communitas welcomes your donations for our activities.  This is particularly relevant given the loss of Government funding in 2021, leaving us wholly dependent on donations from our members, supporters and the general public.

Donors are invited to contribute to  Communitas through the  Canada  Helps button on our website,  Cheques are also welcome and can be mailed to our office at 1444 Union Avenue.

We strongly encourage you to become a monthly contributor to our Organization.  This will assist with our long-term planning, especially as we continue to envision serving a greater client base.

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all members, supporters and well-wishers for your financial and moral support, without which our work could not succeed.

Michele Rattray-Huish, President
Mouvement Communitas Inc.

1444 Union Avenue, Montreal QC, H3A 2B8
Tel: +1 514 244 6147

Open Door Spiritual Moment by Bill , September 26, 2023, to mark National Truth and Reconciliation Week

At first, I was going to show a video on intergenerational trauma, but the more I thought about it, I felt we just needed to talk.
I had a recent conversation with my friend Jerrod where he stated that before we get to the reconciliation part, we need to hear the truth. Thank you, Jerrod, for such meaningful words. I was listening today to a webinar with Jesse Wente, an indigenous arts journalist and current head of the Canada Arts Council, and he also talked about the truth part of truth and reconciliation. He said it isn’t only listening to the truth but accepting the truth. Only then will you open the pathway to reconciliation. He said it may still take generations to get there. But at least the journey has started.
What can we do? Get informed and listen.
Here is the video mentioned above.
Thinking about acts of reconciliation?  Here are some ideas to start with:
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Communitas Montreal Land Acknowledgement

Communitas and National Truth and Reconciliation Week — Land Acknowledgement
Adapted from the City of Montreal land acknowledgement
We are on unceded Indigenous lands of the traditional territory of both the Kanien’kehá:ka, “Mohawk,” and the Anishinabeg, “Algonquin,” peoples.
We are grateful for the opportunity to live here, and we thank the many generations who have taken care of this land and these waters. Tiohtiá:ke, Montreal, is historically known as a gathering place for diverse First Nations; thus, we recognize and deeply appreciate the historic and ongoing Indigenous connections to and presence on these lands and waters.
Let us continue to support community efforts to sustain a relationship with Indigenous peoples based on respect, dignity, trust, and cooperation in the process of advancing truth, reconciliation and justice.

Are You a Possible Future Monthly Donor to Communitas?


As we head into the Fall, Communitas wishes to thank all our benefactors who have supported us financially – whether with membership fees, through Open Door Book purchases, or by donating to the Organization, via cash, cheques or through our Canada Helps account.

We would like to express a special note of thanks to the individuals who have decided to contribute to Communitas on a monthly basis.  At present Communitas has a total of 10 such individual benefactors who donate a fixed sum to us every month.

Given the recent change in our funding base – with the end of Government financial support, this dependability of funding is very much appreciated in planning our activities for the future – be it Open Door, Table Talk, Prison Chapel activities, Prison In-Reach, Circles of Support and Accountability, the Sou’Wester or simply accompaniment of men recently released from prison.

I would encourage anyone who feels able to make such a monthly contribution to Communitas, to consider doing so.  The monthly amount need not be onerous – any amount that you can afford will be greatly welcomed. To do so, visit our Donate page.

We hope to double the number of monthly donors from 10 to 20 by the next Annual General Meeting in May 2024.

Thank you for all the support that you provide to Communitas.

Michele Rattray-Huish, President/Treasurer


September 2023

COMMUNITAS Annual General Meeting 2023


COMMUNITAS’ Annual General Meeting took place on 24 May 2023 via Zoom.  Attended by 29 members, the AGM approved the Financial Statements for 2022-2023 as well as the 2023-2024 budget.

A new Board of Directors was acclaimed and Communitas is very pleased to welcome Donald as the newest member of the Board.  Six members of the previous Board returned to serve – Michele, Steve, Jeri, Pauline, Sabrina and Dave.

We said farewell to Roch our invaluable Treasurer for the past 2 years, who stepped down from the Board of Directors after yeoman’s service.

A more complete account of the meeting results will be published in the next edition of the Sou’Wester.