Our interview takes place on the forested shore of Lac Saint-Charles, in the heart of the Huron-Wendat Nation. Born in the community of Wendake in May 1964, Pierre Picard has devoted his career to bridging the gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous worlds in order to teach and apply tools and approaches that promote mental and spiritual well-being. He embarked on his current career as a social intervention specialist after a variety of enriching life experiences.
A proud, enthusiastic and determined man, Pierre is an exceptional communicator and teacher. He received his elementary school education from nuns working in the Wendake community. After completing his high school studies at a Catholic school, Mont St-Sacrement, he studied humanities at Collège François-Xavier Garneau. His first job as an intern with Radio-Canada gave him a greater awareness of the realities faced by indigenous peoples.
In 1983, following a semester of studying law at the University of Ottawa, he returned to the Québec City region to study journalism at Université Laval. In 1984, he gained experience as a journalist working for a regional weekly newspaper in the Portneuf area.
Passionate about public policy issues, he became a researcher at the National Assembly of Québec, then in January 1986, he served as a political advisor to Minister Lise Bacon. After briefly returning to Université Laval to study political science, in January 1987, he was appointed as a political attaché to the Québec Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Michel Pagé, a position he held until July 1990.
“The work environment was exhilarating and sometimes stressful, but above all fast-paced,” he says. He confides that during that period, he developed a serious dependence on alcohol. “Once it was affecting my personal and professional aspirations, I stopped drinking.”
In July 1990, he left politics and took on the role of president of the Association Québécoise de l’Industrie de la Pêche (Québec Fishing Industry Association). He was in charge of negotiations with the government and other parties regarding commercial fishing agreements and quotas.
After looking inward and considering the values that mattered to him, he decided to pursue a new path. He turned toward a career focusing on social skills, listening, mutual aid and sharing of life experiences. After further studies in psychology from 1993 to 1996, he obtained a master’s degree in clinical sexology at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
“These studies allowed me to better understand some of the harsh realities experienced within indigenous communities,” he explains. His research and then his work helped him to provide answers to complex questions posed by indigenous men, women and children who were victims of sexual assault. The techniques he developed, which incorporate the promotion of indigenous identity into his therapeutic approach, have aided people who were victims of abuse, physical assault and violence during childhood. His clinical intervention programs for people in difficulty have helped many communities support individuals in distress.
He has collaborated on the development of various therapeutic programs based on indigenous values: courage, mutual aid, respect, honesty, humility and wisdom. By drawing on the expertise of people with knowledge of traditional healing methods, he has also helped to provide spiritual care. He has worked with men and women in trouble, addressing the root of their problems using various therapies, some designed for addicts and some for victims or perpetrators of violence of all kinds.
It’s a heavy burden, but through his actions, Pierre has given a voice to men, women and children suffering from psychological trauma who are sometimes ignored by the authorities.
In his expert view, “it has become necessary to educate healthcare decision-makers about the realities of indigenous people’s knowledge and social interactions while increasing their awareness of different cultures. Health management in indigenous society requires casting aside western preconceptions and being humble, respectful and willing to listen, in order to establish plans or programs aimed at improving the well-being of communities that are often remote and lacking in care resources.”
Pierre, who advises government administrators and specialists of all kinds, has a simple message for officials when it comes to building relationships with indigenous groups: “Listen to their needs, be open to the feedback people give you and take action based on what these communities tell you.”
He has the following advice for youth: “Seek out experiences that excite you—some will be positive, others less so, but all will help you establish your priorities. Respect your life choices and values.”
In closing, he says, “Become agents of change by taking inspiration from the indigenous values upheld by our ancestors: love, appreciation, gratitude, humility and respect for yourself and others.”