Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 04, 2018 - 10:35 am

GN backs away from morphing culture school into treatment centre

GN now denies repurposing idea

JANE GEORGE
A committee of MLAs said the Government of Nunavut was looking at converting the Piqqusilirivvik Cultural School building in Clyde River into a territorial addictions treatment centre. But the GN now says they don't want to do that. (FILE PHOTO)
A committee of MLAs said the Government of Nunavut was looking at converting the Piqqusilirivvik Cultural School building in Clyde River into a territorial addictions treatment centre. But the GN now says they don't want to do that. (FILE PHOTO)

(UPDATED, 1:20 p.m., June 6)

It appears the Government of Nunavut was looking at converting Piqqusilirivvik Cultural School in Clyde River into a territorial addictions treatment centre, Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakashuk, the chair of the assembly’s standing committee on social wellness, said in a report to the assembly given May 31.

But now, the Department of Health says they have no intention of doing that.

“Health would like to clarify that the ongoing feasibility study for a treatment facility does not include the Piqqusilirivvik Inuit Cultural Learning Centre in Clyde River,” a health department spokesperson said in an email June 6 to Nunatsiaq News.

With $388,000 for a feasibility study for such a treatment facility underway, GN consultants had eyed the school’s $32.2 million building in the north Baffin community of about 1,000 people, Nakashuk had said on behalf of the committee.

“During the minister’s appearance before the standing committee to discuss her department’s draft budget for 2018-19, members were given to understand that some consideration has been given to repurposing the Piqqusilirivvik Cultural School in Clyde River into a residential treatment facility,” Nakashuk said, when MLAs examined the Health Department’s budget requests for 2018-19.

“Members look forward to updates on developments.”

Health Minister Pat Angnakak would likely have provided that information to a standing committee of MLAs in a behind-close-doors in-camera session last April, during budget briefings.

But it now looks as if the GN is backing away from that idea, despite the statement that Nakashuk attributed to Angnakak.

“The Department of Health would like to clarify that the ongoing feasibility study for a treatment facility does not include the Piqqusilirivvik Inuit Cultural Learning Centre in Clyde River and it should be made clear that it was never a government position to repurpose the Piqqusilirivvik Centre” the health department message said.

Modelled after Knud Rasmussen Folk High School in Sisimut, Greenland, Piqqusiirivvik, which means “a place that has those things important to us,” first opened in 2011.

Looking ahead, the 2,200-square-metre building, which costs at least $4 million a year to operate, could have been an attractive option for a treatment centre for the Health Department.

For 2018-19, the Department of Health is looking for ways to reduce its 2018-19 budget of $392 million, which was introduced last week by Angnakak in the Nunavut legislature’s committee of the whole.

This figure represents an increase of more than $39 million, or about 10 per cent, over what the department asked for last year.

In her comments on the Health Department’s budget, Nakashuk also pointed out that the department had asked for close to $50 million more in supplementary money for 2017-18.

Included in the Health Department’s request for 2018-19:

• $1,583,000 to work towards eliminating tuberculosis.

• $2,748,000 to support mental health services.

• $433,000 to hire an additional audiologist to focus on early intervention for newborns and preschool children.

• $490,000 to fill two public health positions on cannabis and develop a Nunavut-specific cannabis public health program.

• $31 million for the following “uncontrollable expense” categories: $14.5 million for medical travel, $11 million for mental health and addictions treatment, $855,000 for operational funding for elders’ homes, and $4.8 million for operational funding to support the care of elders out of territory.

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