Blue Dome feeling the blues

Future of popular QIA youth centre in the hands of board members after seven successful but bumpy months



Raurri Qajaaq Ellsworth admits the blue dome youth centre has had its problems. But like a teen growing into maturity, he says the youth centre will learn from its mistakes.

Ellsworth should know. He was once a teen with attitude, he says. But the Qikiqtani Inuit Association youth coordinator has come a long way since then.

The dome youth centre closed for Christmas on Dec. 19, but vandals interrupted plans to re-open in early January.

“We wanted it closed for the Christmas holidays, so people could hang out with their families,” Ellsworth said.

A break-in on Dec. 31 was the seventh break and enter in as many months. Nothing was stolen but the vandals smashed audio, video and computer equipment worth several thousand dollars.

After the December incident, Ellsworth decided to close the center for renovations. He’s now re-writing a management plan, with a letter of support from the City of Iqaluit, requesting another year of funding from QIA. The plan goes to QIA board members on Feb. 10.

“Parents stop me and thank me for giving their kids a place to go. I walk in and see kids playing pool, doing things they’re proud of and it’s awesome,” Ellsworth said.

Of the 200 youths who visit the dome, a core of 30 regulars would drop in daily to play pool and drink coffee. In spite of the closure, youths continue working on a suicide prevention video at Makkuttukkuvik, the city-run youth centre in the Arctic Winter Games complex. The video is part of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention conference in Iqaluit in May.

Ellsworth insists the dome closure has nothing to do with the RCMP’s investigation into the death of 13-year-old Jennifer Naglingniq. Naglingniq was a frequent visitor to the Dome before she was found murdered in her home on Dec. 5.

A former youth centre employee with a prior criminal record was charged in connection with the murder. The charge has since been stayed by the Crown.

Ellsworth plans to begin a new staff screening process, including criminal record checks. “Things got a little too relaxed over time. I’d like to see more structure,” he said.

Still, Ellsworth insists the good far outweighs the bad.

“It’s been a great learning experience. I’m glad we opened when we did, even if we weren’t completely ready. All the bad things that have happened, we’ll learn from,” he said.

The soup kitchen and food bank continue to operate.

Renovation plans include replacing damaged equipment and toning down the brightly painted walls, Ellsworth said.

“We want it a little more subdued and structured but we still want to be funky.”

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