Canon Arreak clarifies position on sexual abuse and Inuit culture
After reading theNunatsiaq News, Oct. 3 edition, I feel that I have to make some correction of what the paper has said. It was not what I intended to say.
The quotations are out of context from what I said. I hope it was my fault that what I might have said wasn’t clear enough.
Before I go into that, let me tell you how surprised I was to receive a call from Nunatsiaq News. I was even surprised to see what was in the paper, that said what I said, and even more surprised to see that there were already answers in your article about what I said, even before the papers came out to the public.
I didn’t see what you wrote, until the paper came out to the public.
But first of all let me give you why I was in Kangirsuk. You said that, quote, “Arreak, an Anglican minister in Kuujjuaq and a long-time friend of Simigak’s, gave evidence on Simigak’s behalf at the sentencing hearing.” To tell you the truth, that was not the reason why I went to Kangirsuk, I went there on behalf of the Bishop.
The Bishop was not able to come to Kangirsuk, so I was asked to go to Kangirsuk to represent the Bishop, because of the difficult time like this, and so that Iyetsiak will know that the Bishop still cares about him and his family, and the parish of Kangirsuk.
In the court hearing, I was asked who I am, my date of birth, my job, where I live, why I am here, and how long I have known him, and was he accepted by the people where he worked, in two places. That is the end of what I said. I did not say that he is innocent because of our culture, nor I did not say he was just trying to make them proud of their womanhood.
Comments about only one of four cases
Rather, he did tell me that in one incident, meaning one of cases he was charged with, he said that, what really happened was that he said playfully “you are coming to womanhood.”
He said he touched her on top of the winter clothes on the leg, she was wearing wind pants and a parka, and that he did not intend to go further, he did not intend to do this for sexual purposes, and that he did not know about the Charter of Rights law then.
Because nobody ever explained to him what the law says about the protection of children and under age girls, to his culture he did not commit a crime, and never thought about the court case.
I don’t know about the whole truth. In your case I was a long time friend of his, but I don’t really know his private life. I cannot speak for him. I only can say what he told me personally. I know about him, but I don’t really know him that closely.
I know that he is a kind and gentle and honest man and open, and usually does faithfully what he has to do.
Pressured to plead guilty
Furthermore, for several years the prosecutors could not agree with what Iyetsiak said. He told me that, last spring he was asked “why don’t you plead guilty for all of them, that’s the only way we can make a decision.”
He was told, it’s been too long to suffer, not only for himself, but for the whole family as well.
Non-English need help understanding the law
To me, that is not the right thing to do for an older person who does not understand English, and who does not understand what the law says about what pleading guilty means to the court. So, to me, some of the charges might be true, and some might not.
In that case the person who does not speak English should be helped to understand clearly before the hearing starts, that is the strong feeling I have for the people who don’t speak English, not just for Iyetsiak.
Also to clarify the tradition. In our culture and traditional belief, you should not have sexual relations with children or wiht people too close in the family. That is also protected by law, and what the Bible teaches. Our traditional belief goes farther than that you should not have sexual relations with the animals, nor the same sex, because if you do, you will cut your life because of it.
To clarify what I said about the Inuit traditional ways, there are two ways to touch a person, in Inuit traditional ways.
One is for sexual desire, or to try to persuade the partner. The other one is just to touch to be kind and understanding to other people, not intending sexual purposes.
That is what Iyetsiak says how one of the charges against him happened, and that is why he thought he had not committed a crime, just like shaking hands is not a crime.
That’s why he thought he had not committed a crime, but if you have been wrongly treated and hurt in your early years, this also can be wrong treatment for you.
One of the things we should know about people is that to have anger and hate at the same time, not just for a moment, in the long run means you need help to heal your pain from the past, because the anger with hate, did not come from you, it came from the evil one, because he is full of anger and full of hate.
Newspapers should be careful
So, for the sake of public newspapers, I think we should be careful, not to make other people create anger and hate someone, rather we should tell the truth, nothing but the truth, not to change what the people say because we think.
To think that it will be creating more interest to the readers, I think that is a wrong motive.
I know that, there are some people who have been hurt, and even asking why did I say things like this in the paper, if you do, then talk to me personally, not via newspapers.
And your paper also talks about Iyetsiak’s return to ministry right after having been in prison. That is not what I said. What I said was that he will be able to minister better to the people who have been through the same as he has been going through.
I hope we will remember in our prayers, the people who have been hurt, especially those who have been mistreated sexually, or abused, not to forget that the people who do these kinds of things need the most help and healing.
Doing it this way, we will be helping others to set them free from bondage. We will be able to do this, only through Christ, Paul says in Phillipians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” also in John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Getting to know Christ is the key to the freedom, Paul also says in 2 Cor. 3:17 “….and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom.” God bless us all.
St. Stephen’s Anglican Church
Church practices zero tolerance
Along with most of your readers, I was very disturbed when I read the remarks attributed to Canon Benjamin Arreak of Kuujjuaq in your article relating to the recentsentencing of the Rev. Eyeetsiak Simigak for sexual abuse(Oct.3/97). I am deeply troubled about the hurt this report is causing those people, male as well as female, who are having to deal with abuse in their lives and are now wondering if the Anglican Church can help them come to healing and recover self-respect.
We cannot take back what was reported in Nunatsiaq News, but I want to clarify the position of the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic. As Bishop I have already informed the clergy and lay-leaders of the diocese that Eyeetsiak Simigak is suspended for at least two years from his duties as clergy in Kangirksuk, P.Q., and the diocese. Such abuse as he is convicted of is not to be tolerated in any culture.
I have spoken with Canon Arreak about the report and he has written to the editor saying he was seriously misquoted. However, I wish to add that the Diocese of the Arctic has a stated policy of “zero toleration” in all matters of wrongful sexual action on the part of clergy or those engaged in lay ministry in the church. Such behaviour cannot be condoned.
J. Christopher R. Williams
Bishop of the Arctic