This cabin in Pond Inlet is one of several that will be built in Nunavut through the Department of Family Services-funded Ikur’raq Cabin Building program. (Photo courtesy of Hamlet of Pond Inlet)

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

By Madalyn Howitt

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. 

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by to be fair on

    This is a good idea as long as it accessible by those most vulnerable. Do you need an atv truck or snowmobile to access it? What if theres multiple people needing it? Will it be staffed? Will occupants need to reserve it? What is stopping it from becoming a spot to party in and then trash the place? Will there be cameras?

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  2. Posted by Eye Roll on

    Nice silly photo op.
    Now go build real homes and real shelters with staff.

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  3. Posted by jabby on

    In Iqaluit, this will almost certainly become a party shack.

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  4. Posted by Wow, a reaction on

    If you put these in a circle around a central hub, then you make a qaggiq;

    In the center—can be a few seacans converted into a shared space where there’s a kitchen, a big sitting area, bathrooms, and laundry (minimal distance of plumbing as the water tank and sewage tank can be housed in separate container in the middle too (avoiding any cracking and reducing number of fills and drains by the water/sewage truck))… you might even be able to getaway with one of those water tank sizes that the government worker’s homes have ; you know 4-water tanks-in-one 🙂

    Plus, why not start with something like the old kituna bunkhouse in the middle and have these modular homes extend into that shared kitchen, laundry and eating space;

    Heck, if that’s still owned by the KIA then that’s a joint initiative; GN’s family services with these modular homes and , NTI —via KIA, building, supporting or repurposing the center hubs.

    True partnership like Premekr Akeeagok and President Kotierk imagined.

    You could even have a central hub for other units where there’s a carving modular space, a games-space, a sewing space and a shop to fix snowmachines and ATVs; all with their own grouped Seacans converted.

    Plus, Inuit can do the work.

    And if you’re really about that inclusion, you can still have the quallunaat come up and move your snow for you; this time though let them pile it around and in the spaces between the modular homes; further insulating and keeping the heat in (plus making some good ramps for GTs and the youth to slide down )

    Look forward to seeing how this extends; there are limitless possibilities of how to build and design with these Arctic Lego blocks

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    • Posted by Dancing on a pinhead on

      I have this strong intuition that only a qallunaat would use the spelling ‘quallunaat’?

      Is it true?

      Weird nod to ‘inclusion’ by the way

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  5. Posted by Thomas Shelby on

    “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.” This is a fairy tale idea, no one will be there other than drunks and partiers. Parents won’t bring their kids there, no families will go there. Come on, give your head a shake, broken bear bottles and cans, garbage everywhere, we all know what it will look like except Niego, she is dreamland.

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    • Posted by Frankly on

      This so called “place of refuge” will certainly be a “place of refuge” for the younger population, if it is respected it will be a valuable space for learning and to “get away from it all” a safe space hopefully for everyone to enjoy the outdoors, on the other hand ….drunks can also access it at anytime during its use as well. Weekend parties will prevail once initiated. There are other matters as well that will come with it The program should have been mini homes in town where all the empty lots sit. Good for at least three cabins in one lot here in Kugluktuk . Family service here don’t know anything of our culture though . It’s hard when your from out of the country to start helping everyone out that has a different culture-that’s government for you . Many many derelict houses that should have been fixed instead with the use of the funding that may put more families in real homes and not into shacks outside of town. Many many families would of benefit if this family service program focused on homelessness instead.

  6. Posted by So wow on

    So wow just described building an entire community, complete with rec rooms, repair shops etc. Holy crap, what goes through someone’s head when they come up with this. This is just way too far off the chart to say any more other than one final observation. The author has obviously never built or maintained anything. Very scholarly however. Better have another nap and dream a little more.

  7. Posted by Family services blunder on

    The previous article said the sea can shack above was a model of a potential home for Inuit and that the hamlet wanted to have a whole subdivision of sea can shacks like the wow commenter said. This is really sad, that Inuit are supposed to accept substandard housing because the GN whipped up a million bucks in funding. How is this sustainable?

    No I don’t want to receive counselling in a shack with no water or washrooms, who approves these projects? What a joke! Nothing like substandard services, in shacks on the outskirts of town to relieve your mental health issues.

  8. Posted by Lesley on

    Government please do your job and house humans properly. You impose on a territory and on Inuit people’s in the past, disrupting a natural way of life… only to TRY to FiX all your mistakes with cheap bandaids.
    Where is the housing you promised Inuit for 50$ a house for life. Crap we can’t even live in all your empty houses laying around because your all playing a real like game of MONOPOLY.

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  9. Posted by Real inuk on

    What a complete waste of an initiative for human beings and also money that could be used for helping families and not a run- away place for hiding in.

  10. Posted by Housing For Work on

    Staff housing available for those who work key jobs. Work ten years, house is transferred to you free of charge. Don’t work, options should be to live outside or get shipped south.

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