On January 30, 1971, Tel-Aide received its first calls in a listening room at the Atwater Library, thanks to the initiative of the Anglican pastor Ian Stuchberry of Christ Church Cathedral and assisted by several faithful of his parish. From its inception, Tel-Aide aimed to provide continuous service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in French and English.
The end of the sixties was then marked by sharp divisions within the Montreal community. Anglophones and Francophones, religious of various faiths and lay people, united to set up a service to help people in distress. Seeing how loneliness is such an important issue in a society where communication is often lacking, the group wants to establish a helpline where anyone living in loneliness can enjoy a listening and respectful ear.
Several people are recruited, including Victoria Shipton, director of the Center for Christian Research at St. Patrick’s Church; Sister Dolorès Riopel, called to represent the French-speaking part of the project; Albert Ménard, communications professional at Radio-Canada and Marcel Boileau, public relations manager at Bell Canada. They will strive to make Tel-Aide known to the general public and to attract attentive volunteers.
The Toronto Crisis Center provides early training. Subsequently, Tel-Aide volunteers will take on the selection of new listeners, basic training, listening support and continuing training.
The name of the organization, Tel-Aide, appeared during a discussion among the founding members. The combination of the two words – Tel, the abbreviation for telephone in French and English, and Aide – help spread the mission of the new organization: to offer help to callers through empathetic, genuine and respectful listening.