Cabins going up in the outskirts of several Nunavut communities as a place of refuge
Ikur’raq Cabin Building Program intended to help Nunavummiut rest or get away from difficult situations at home
Nunavummiut looking to get away from difficult circumstances at home may soon have the option to find some relief at a community-run cabin.
Earlier this month, Family Services Minister Margaret Nakashuk announced that at least a dozen communities in Nunavut will have access to a temporary cabin retreat through the Ikur’raq Cabin Building Program, a project funded through the department.
The concept of a temporary cabin respite program was created at the 2018 Nunavut Roundtable for Poverty Reduction in collaboration with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. as a way to address issues like overcrowding and substance abuse in homes, said Yvonne Niego, deputy minister of family services.
“At the time, a lot of the communities were talking about … generational trauma, current crises, multiple issues happening within the household,” she said.
In January, the program received $1 million from the Nunavut government. Hamlets, hunters and trappers organizations and non-profit groups can apply for a $40,000 grant to build a cabin, which goes towards labour, materials and transportation costs, said Nakashuk.
Currently, 16 Ikur’raq cabins are at various stages of being built in 12 communities: Pangnirtung is getting three cabins, Arviat has two in the works, Pond Inlet is getting two cabins, and Coral Harbour, Iqaluit, Clyde River, Naujaat, Baker Lake, Igloolik, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, and Kugluktuk are each getting one.
Niego said a cabin made out of a shipping container has already been built in Pond Inlet, and others are nearing completion.
The idea is for communities to build a cabin on the edge of town that people can use as a quiet place to rest, as refuge for families who need to get away from a difficult situation at home or as holistic support such as counselling.
Niego said each community can choose how they want to use the cabin, and can determine how long people can stay in one visit, but they are intended to be temporary spaces for relief.
“It’s not for individuals [to] just simply go there while you’re out hunting,” she said.
“It’s where there’s supposed to be programming such as counselling or other referral to other services, some sort of learning support or reconnection with culture, those kinds of activities.”
While the grant can go towards the cost of building the cabin, each community is responsible for additional staffing, programming and utility costs.
Niego says the first year of the program is being treated as a pilot project. The department will decide next year if the program is indeed offering respite to users, and if the model could inspire more permanent housing solutions in the future.
“Hopefully, it gives us also the opportunity to come up with more ideas through the feedback of the agencies utilizing these cabin programs,” she said.