The James Bay Community Project

By Sarah Pugh

The James Bay Community Project is an integrated health care centre located at 547 Michigan St. The Project operates on a broad definition of “health”, providing not only primary health care services (physicians and nurses) but also services aimed at enhancing and maintaining mental and physical health for youth, families and seniors.

The Project grew out of the grassroots movement in the region in the early 1970s which formed the James Bay Community Association in response to the growing number of highrise apartments and the zoning that permitted it. The JBCA was successful in lobbying the city to zone James Bay strictly for single-family/townhouse developments, thus preserving the neighbourhood's character. The organization went on to develop a community school with recreational programming, and in 1973 began planning for a neighbourhood medical clinic. In 1975 a proposal to the provincial government to create a Human Resource Centre/Medical Clinic was accepted as one of four pilot projects in the province, under the Community Resources Board Act and the James Bay Community Project was born. In 1984 the act was rescinded, and the Project was reconstituted under the Societies Act as the James Bay Health and Community Services Society. Everyone residing in James Bay over the age of 16 is a member of the society, with voting privileges.

Since the 1980s the Project has moved and upgraded its location to its current bright, modern building on Michigan St. Visitors to the project rarely find the lobby quiet – it is often filled with an intergenerational mix of people and donations of food, garden produce and flowers. A community-use computer, library and kitchen exist alongside a family centre that provides programming for parents and children up to school age, and a full-service medical clinic. Additional health care practitioners have offices on the upper floor of the building.

The Project is unique in Victoria, and probably in British Columbia. Hanne Fair, the retiring manager of the Family and Community Services Centre, says that the Project's combination of primary care and preventative care draws tours of health professionals from all over the world, and it has drawn the notice of the World Health Organization. More important to Fair, though, is how the Project functions as a catalyst for volunteer energy in the community, and for donations and goodwill generally. The Project recycles clothing through the community through the Community Closet, which operates a store out of the James Bay Plaza, but in addition to merely reducing waste, the Community Closet also provides volunteer opportunities and job training. Likewise, the Senior Connections initiative and the Family Centre both provide volunteer opportunities and Camosun College nursing students often gain valuable insight into healthy, functioning families through stints in the Family Centre. The Project draws the whole community together, which helps the community stay healthy. Fair believes that it is more than the sum of its parts, and she fervently hopes it stays that way. “I hope it never becomes just service delivery,” she says.

Despite its success and the evident need for all the services the Project, the Community School and New Horizons provide, Fair still sees “service holes” in James Bay. Children, youth, families and seniors are well-served by the Project and its sister organizations – New Horizons and the Community School – but there are few services for adults, especially underemployed and homeless adults. Every month nearly 300 people ask for food from the Community Cupboard, and many more avail themselves of the free food in the lobby freezer.

In the future, Fair hopes that the work she has done with the Community School and New Horizons towards a co-location project pans out, and that with a larger facility for all three organizations, these service holes can be filled. In the meantime, the Project works as best it can to provide the widest array of services possible.

At a glance, the full range of services provided by or hosted by the Community Project consists of:


  • Primary Care (family physicians, advanced practice nurses)
  • Youth Clinic (serving 12-24 years, focusing on at-risk youth)
  • Supplementary Care (acupuncture, massage, counselling, homeopathy, herbal medicine)
  • Chronic Disease Management
  • Lifelabs

Family Services
  • Baby Group for parents and babies up to 1 year
  • Toddler Playgroup (with parent, up to 30 months)
  • Creative Play group (with parent, up to 6 years)
  • Nobody's Perfect Parenting Group
  • Mother Goose
  • Family Counselling services
  • Family dinner drop-in

Community Services
  • Library
  • Public Computer Access and Tutoring
  • Emergency Food Cupboard
  • Seniors Connections program
  • Senior Outreach Worker
  • Macular and Low Vision Support Group
  • Program Referrals
  • Community Closet Thrift Store
  • Volunteer-run Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi and Singing groups

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