QIA ponders plight of elders, women, youth

“Elders have to rise up”

By JANE GEORGE

Directors at this week’s board meeting of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in Iqaluit displayed much frustration when they grappled Oct. 21 with the troubled state of elders, women and youth throughout the Qikiqtani region.

Elders, who lack support in some communities, are often subject to abuse from their children and grandchildren, directors said.

Joannasie Karpik of Pangnirtung, the elder’s representative to the QIA, said “elders have to rise up.”

“They need help,” Karpik said.

George Echalook, the QIA’s vice-president and chair of this week’s annual general meeting and board meeting, said elders need more help at home, more special residences and more protection against abuse.

Echalook called for an end to “scare tactics” used by youth to intimidate elders.

But he also deplored the phenomenon of elder abuse as a sign that many Inuit are no longer connected to traditional values.

Echalook pointed to the increasing influence of non-Inuit as a contributing factor in the break-down of traditional mediation practices in today’s communities, where he said children risk being removed from their homes by youth protection authorities and women can flee to shelters.

“These are not our ways,” he said.

As a result, many Inuit are getting “defeated,” Echalook said, because non-Inuit make policies and plans and then impose them on Inuit, he said.

“This is not right,” he said.

Echalook also specifically criticized non-Inuit men who marry Inuit women and then set up housekeeping in Baffin communities — a statement he later apologized for at some length in front of the assembled directors.

And board member Larry Audlaluk of Grise Fiord spoke up in support of shelters and intervention for battered women, saying that his marriage benefited from a shelter being made available for his wife.

Other delegates called for a new men’s group in QIA to assist men.

There was universal support voiced for more QIA-supported programs, such as community centres and leadership forums, for youth, 55 per cent of the population in the Baffin region.

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