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  • Writer's pictureItsik Romano

Power of community: How a Facebook group saved Christmas for these Indigenous women

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A local restaurant is bringing the power of Christmas to a group of Indigenous women this Saturday, December 11th. This weekend, Carlos & Pepe's in Vaudreuil will close its doors to the public, and instead, welcome a group of 20 Indigenous women and their 25 children from Chez Doris, "a day shelter that offers a range of services and programs to meet the most basic and immediate needs of vulnerable and homeless women." (SOURCE)

The owner of the restaurant, Barbara Kanduth, has always been passionate about giving back to the community, and when the opportunity to host the women of Chez Doris came upon her, she simply couldn't say no.

"I had been in contact with Chez Doris because I was hoping to have our team go to them. We wanted to bring them goodies and a home-cooked meal. It turns out their sponsor for their annual Christmas lunch had backed out, so I said 'bring them here!'"
- Barbara Kanduth, Owner, Carlos & Pepe's Vaudreuil

Because Barbara had shorter notice than most to prepare, it meant that all the "Santa's" in the area were booked solid. Thinking quickly, Kunduth took to her local community Facebook page, "Living in Saint-Lazare [...] and Loving It" seeking the community's help to ensure a visit by Santa could be made possible.

In a Facebook post, Kanduth wrote:

"Hi, all! I have a very special request. We (Carlos & Pepe’s Vaudreuil-Dorion) will be shutting the restaurant during the day on Saturday, December 11th. We are hosting a group of Indigenous women and their children from a women’s shelter for a holiday lunch and kids' activities. It seems that their ‘Santa’ is unable to attend. If anyone has a Santa costume and would be willing to step in here it would be greatly appreciated." (SOURCE)

Like everyone else, the team at West Island News was blown away by the initiative. In a matter of minutes, Kanduth had found her Santa. A member of the community, Peter Angrove was the first to volunteer his time; authentic white beard and all.

"I was so impressed. I know any community would have banned together, but the community in Saint-Lazare always seems to go above and beyond. The outpour of support, gifts, and kind messages was unbelievable."
- Barbara Kanduth, Owner, Carlos & Pepe's Vaudreuil

This isn't the first time the team at Carlos & Pepe's has given back to their community. Last year, they prepared 50 bags of essential items such as warm clothes and toiletries and delivered them to those suffering homelessness across the island of Montreal.

"It's terrible to think that this is going on in Canada. You hear about poverty and never really think it's happening in your own backyard", said Kanduth.

For Kanduth, serving the Indigenous community in Montreal is especially important. Having a husband with Indigenous heritage has shown her firsthand how Quebec's First Nations peoples often get overlooked, brushed aside, and blatantly mistreated. According to Statistics Canada, "Indigenous women and girls are at a disproportionate risk and face among the highest rates of violent and non-violent victimization of all population groups in Canada (Allen 2020; Boyce 2016; Perreault and Simpson 2016)." (SOURCE)

However, even just a few short years ago, an initiative like this one may not have been in the cards for the team at Carlos & Pepe's. Kanduth purchased the restaurant in 2019, knowing little to nothing about the industry. Not long after, they were forced to shut their doors indefinitely at the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, Kanduth and her team have begun to see the fruits of their labor, and are in a position where they can now give back to those struggling.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of the women at Chez Doris, be sure to check out the Amazon wishlist that Kanduth has set up with the help of Kohler Canada below. Purchase items such as feminine hygiene products, toiletries, and other essentials to lighten their load this Christmas.

Chez Doris Amazon Wishlist:


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