Declare child sexual abuse a crisis, Nunavut MLA demands of premier

“We know it’s there and we’re doing our best to deal with it,” premier says

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone is calling on Nunavut’s premier to take a stand on the high rates of child sexual abuse in the territory. (Photo by John Thompson)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut’s premier should do more to address the high rates of child sexual abuse in the territory, says Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone.

“Healing starts with naming it, calling it out, and saying it loud and clear that it is wrong, and that must start here in our assembly,” Lightstone said on June 6, during the recent spring sitting of the legislature.

“I would like to ask why our government has not publicly recognized and addressed the rampant and widespread rates of child sexual abuse in Nunavut.”

In response, Premier Joe Savikataaq said the Department of Justice and the Department of Family Services work with the RCMP “and they have family interventions and other programs there.”

“I’m not sure what the solution is. We know it’s there and we’re doing our best to deal with it. I don’t have an answer for the member in terms of exactly what to do to stop it,” Savikataaq said.

“As a premier, I’m not personally involved in that. The departments are there to do their job and we support them, but as a government, I can tell the member that there should be no child sexual abuse in Nunavut. There shouldn’t be. It’s unacceptable, but sadly it’s a fact that there is.”

The government needs to take a stand on the issue, Lightstone said, although putting an end to child sexual abuse is a challenge greater than one individual.

“It’s going to take every organization, every department, every individual, and every community to band together to say enough is enough,” he said.

Lightstone also asked Savikataaq if he considered the high rates of child sexual abuse in the territory to be a crisis.

“The word ‘crisis’ could be interpreted many different ways, but just by the bare facts that we have the highest sexual abuse in Canada, as the member stated, it is a serious problem,” Savikataaq said.

“I think I can speak for everyone in this room that we all condemn it. It should never happen,” he added.

Lightstone also brought the issue to the legislature this past February, when he cited a report by the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation that says Nunavut children experience rates of abuse 10 times higher than the national average.

As well, Lightstone submitted 19 written questions about the topic during the winter sitting. He received the responses on May 23, which showed that 13 cases of sexual assault and 33 cases of sexual violations against children under the age of 12 in Nunavut were reported in 2017.

Lightstone told Nunatsiaq News he is “glad to know the premier is taking this situation seriously,” but he can’t say he is overly satisfied with the premier’s response to his questions.

“My only wish is that the government and the executive will stand in the assembly and address the situation with the concern that it deserves,” he said.

Lightstone said that by declaring Nunavut’s high rates of child sexual abuse a crisis, the Nunavut government would be able to take the steps necessary to create an interdepartmental strategy to combat the situation.

“It takes a lot out of you to bring this up,” Lightstone said. “But I do hope people will continue to push the ‘Me Too’ movement and our communities will stand together and say enough is enough.

“We need to do this in order to protect our children.”

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pudlo Taktu on

    Why is the GN made responsible for the purported high rates of child abuse? It’s fine to say the GN could do more but there are limited dollars with which to conduct social programs. Does this MLA just want some hand to mouth statement? This is grandstanding at its best. I mean take your pick of the hundred or so issues up here and a person might make a dent in the top ten over 20 years.

  2. Posted by Crazy on

    What’s even scarier is that some of the MLAs are “uncomfortable” with children rights. That’s a serious issue. How can a territory declare a state of crisis with child abuse with some of the members are saying things like that.. I would also be very curious to see the criminal records of all the members………?

  3. Posted by Bill Man on

    Thank you Mr Lightstone for standing up and speaking about child abuse. It’s chornic in Nunavut it’s been hapening for generations and the cycle will not stop. Those who are known pretators need to be removed from society. These people who pray on children have most likely been victims themselves. Chid abuse is just not acceptable in any society.

  4. Posted by Obvious on

    Pressure judges to increase sentences for offenders. Current sentencing practices are not a deterrent.

    • Posted by Less obvious but true on

      If you can show us where stronger sentencing has ever been a deterrent, that would be great.

      • Posted by Observer on

        Severity of punishment is not necessarily a deterrence. *Certainty* of punishment, however, can be. Think of speeding on the streets. If speed limits are rarely or never enforced, eventually people are always speeding, even if it’s illegal, because there are no consequences. If people know they’re going to be caught speeding, people are less likely to speed because the rules are constantly enforced.

        In Nunavut crimes including abuse of children and of elders, often happen because the people doing it know the odds are they’ll get away with it.

      • Posted by Reality on

        Criminals can’t commit crime when they are in jail. Canadians are so obsessed with seeing criminals as victims, we forget that incarceration is partly to contain the problem, and not just to fix the criminal or deter others.

  5. Posted by Nunavut on

    This isn’t just a government problem. This a Nunavut problem as a whole. It is each and every other one of your responsibility to stand up against child abuse. It’s YOUR responsibility to protect your children. It’s YOUR responsibility to stop it and it’s YOUR responsibility to report it. It’s also your responsibility to listen to your children who are trying to tell you something is wrong. It is YOUR responsibility to pay attention to your children and note changes in behaviour or reactions they have to certain people. It’s your responsibility to talk to your children. The government isn’t going to fix this problem because they aren’t behind our closed doors. It’s up to YOU. Quit relying on the government to fix your problems and choose instead to fix them yourselves. Protect your children; they are your # 1 priority.

    • Posted by in the GN on

      Yes… but the government could and *should* be doing a lot more to support children and their needs…for example: supporting teachers/nurses/social workers to be skilled at working with (and identifying) kids who are abused. Helping parents have the support they need to be good parents (its hard to protect your child when you are hungry and being abused yourself with nowhere to turn). Programs like the Umingmak centre, land programs and shelters need to robustly funded. Yes, by the GN. Its the only way we are going to break out of this cycle.
      So thank you Adam!

      • Posted by Reality on

        It’s not the teachers, nurses and social workers who need to change. They know that kids are being abused, but the community demands that nothing be done about it, yet expects the problems be solved somehow by outsiders. If there are no consequences to abuse, and the community demands that kids be left in their homes, what do you expect nurses, teachers, and social workers to do?

    • Posted by Linn on

      I totally agree with your comment.
      Some problems can’t be resolved by money or our government.
      Be responsible at loving and protecting your children.

  6. Posted by Nala on

    A lot of this child sexual abuse goes unreported in our town. A women who had sexual child abuse so many admit that she has sexually abused kids while she’s working and volunteering and she thinks church is a place where she has to admit her wrong doings from her past now she’s working with students at Paatsaali . None of this will not go anywhere because these people thinks they are forgiven when they admit things in church . Yea, it’s a fudged up! her husband went to church and started talking that he has killed a man and nothing was done because he already admit he’s past wrong doings. Yea fudged up!

    • Posted by Uvanga on

      unfortunatly this is a sad reality. forgive and forget and move on is always the words of Inuit. yet the children live with the problem for a lifetime which will drive them to alcohol and drug addiction. reporting It to authorities is also a difficult process as you have to relive that trauma and you don’t always get the outcome of what you wished for your abuser. The biggest one is that your own parents or family won’t support you. Sad realities we have lived and live with and something deffinatly needs to be done because there are too many child abusers out there in our Territory and they can be our dads, our brothers and uncles

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