Feds commit to help fund Nunavut’s addictions treatment centre
“It is long overdue”
Canada and Nunavut have officially committed to building a territorial addictions and trauma treatment centre.
Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk signed a joint declaration of intent on Monday, Aug. 19, in Iqaluit for the construction and operations of the Nunavut Recovery Centre, which is set to open in five years.
“Programs and services offered at the Nunavut Recovery Centre will complement and enhance the great work that is already happening in the territory,” Savikataaq said.
The centre will offer a range of treatments and healing interventions to address addiction and trauma, founded in Inuit culture and values, he added.
“And that’s the important step. This addiction-trauma treatment centre has to be culturally appropriate for the people it’s treating.”
O’Regan said the centre’s creation is historic.
“Today we commit to a residential treatment facility for addictions and trauma treatment as part of a new trauma and addiction treatment centre in Nunavut. And it is long overdue,” O’Regan said.
“This centre will be a made-in-Nunavut approach for trauma and addiction,” he added.
The centre will include three pillars, one being the recovery centre in Iqaluit. The other two are regional, on-the-land healing camps and the development of an Inuit workforce that can staff those healing camps along with the centre itself.
The announcement personally touched Joanasie Akumalik, an Iqaluit city councillor and NTI’s Nanilavut project manager, who MCed the event.
“Today is special, particularly for me,” Akumalik said.
Akumalik said he went to a treatment centre in Mississauga in 1991 for alcohol addiction.
“To this day I haven’t [drunk] any alcohol,” he said.
When he completed treatment, his daughter, Alison, wrote him a letter when she was around 16 or 17 years old, he said.
“To this day I still have her note…. I think she was testing me that if I’m going to drink again, but a year later she gave me this note. It says, ‘I’m proud of my father. He doesn’t drink anymore. We are a happy family.’”
“So that was really special. So I still keep that note in my office. This is why this is so special for me,” he said, fighting back tears.
The federal government will contribute a total of $47.5 million over five years to the project, covering 75 per cent of the capital costs.
It will also provide up to $9.7 million annually toward the operating costs of the treatment centre once it’s complete, O’Regan said.
The Government of Nunavut will provide up to 30 per cent of the capital costs and will be responsible for the full cost of the centre’s community-based programming, support for ongoing maintenance of the facility and staff housing.
The Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. will provide $11.85 million over five years to fund the Inuit counselling portion of the centre’s Inuit workforce pillar.
Programming will include on-the-land healing camps and other supports in the community.
Makigiaqta is the training fund created by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. after NTI and Ottawa reached an out-of-court agreement in 2015, settling NTI’s lawsuit against the federal government.
The centre would be the first in Nunavut since the Inusiqsiuqvik Treatment Centre in Apex closed in 1998.
Dennis Patterson, Nunavut’s senator, who attended the announcement, said the Apex centre was a failure because it was not culturally sensitive.
“The problem with the previous effort was that it was not driven by Inuit…. This is a new way forward,” Patterson said.
Since then, residential treatment has been available only at centres outside Nunavut, such as the Mamisarvik Healing Centre in Ottawa, or at mobile treatment sessions, like those occasionally offered in Cambridge Bay.