Funding secured for Nunavik healing centre
Federal government kicks in last $21 million to build new facility in Kuujjuaq
Updated at 10 a.m. on Aug. 30
The last $21 million required to build the new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq has now been secured.
The Aug. 29 announcement came from Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of intergovernmental and northern affairs and internal trade, using a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility on Nuvuuk Bay beside the Koksoak River as a backdrop.
The new funding is through Infrastructure Canada, in addition to the $6-million contribution by federal Indigenous Services last year.
Other funding has come from Isuarsivik’s own fundraising efforts, as well as the Government of Quebec, Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government.
For a grassroots organization, locking down the full $40.5 million to build the new centre was a tall order, and they’ve got big plans for those dollars.
“We’re a small community-based organization run by a bunch of volunteers, so we are extremely excited about it,” said president and chairman Dave Forrest. “We’re ready to go.”
Isuarsivik has been operating in Kuujjuaq since 1994, offering addictions recovery programming for people across Nunavik.
“In our 25-year history, the first 15-to-16 years, we were essentially a 12-step model over 28 days,” says Forrest.
The centre shut down briefly, just over a decade ago, with its team taking the time off to develop a program for Inuit, designed by Inuit, that focused on trauma and its relationship to substance abuse.
That program, which was added to the original 12-step program, has now grown, particularly the centre’s focus on trauma, and connecting its clients with their culture and the land.
In its current facility, Isuarsivik hosts nine people at a time for six-week sessions and two days of each week are spent out on the land, says Isuarsivik’s executive manager, Alicia Aragutak.
Moving forward, Aragutak says the program will expand to eight weeks, three of which will be spent on the land.
It will also include follow-up with people who have gone through the program and, eventually, Aragutak says, they’d like to have representatives in each community working for Isuarsivik to provide this aftercare.
As well as hosting the new program, the new building will allow for a higher intake and for women’s and men’s programs to run concurrently, in separate spaces.
Last year, the centre had to turn down more than 50 applicants due to lack of space, says Aragutak.
“We expect it to be a bit bigger when we see numbers this year,” she said.
“And this is not us reaching out and promoting our program, this is individuals that seek it for themselves.”
The new facility will grow their capacity to 22 guests at a time, as well as offering space for families—including housing, daycare and a classroom, says Mary Aitchison, Isuarsivik’s vice-president
“Clients and guests have indicated almost each time they do their evaluation or make comments in general, that they would like an opportunity for their family,” says Aitchison.
This approach, focusing on the entire family unit rather than just the individual, will be unique among recovery centres in Quebec, Forrest added.
Yet it’s something Aitchison has heard a call for many times in her years working in the education system.
“Youth have expressed if you really want to help me, help my parents,” says Aitchison.
“This is an opportunity for us Inuit to work on a program that we feel is based on our needs. Often, historically, we feel we’ve had programs brought in from the outside. This is an opportunity where we can develop from the grassroots, where we feel there is the need.”
The new program will be reviewed by Isuarsivik’s board in October, and may be implemented before the new facility opens, though road construction to the new centre’s site is underway, as well as construction of fourplexes for staff housing.
All of this was celebrated with an afternoon of throat-singing performances and speeches, acknowledging those who have made the project possible.
“Since the beginning, in the past 25 years, there’s been a lot of volunteers and time put into Isuarsivik,” says Aragutak. “It’s definitely a perfect definition of a community initiative.”
The majority of the centre’s operating budget will come from the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, though it remains a community-based organization, outside the larger health network, says Forrest.
And there is still a lot of fundraising to do to keep growing the centre to support Nunavimmiut and develop programs that fit their needs.
“We sort of look at this as a starting point,” says Forrest. “We see other avenues to expand: to build a house beside the centre, for elders, and we want to develop the camp out of town … we’re still hustling and we’re getting good at it.”
The headline for this story was updated to better reflect the focus of the centre and a photo of the groundbreaking added.