Funding secured for Nunavik healing centre

Federal government kicks in last $21 million to build new facility in Kuujjuaq

An artist’s rendering of new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq. The last $21 million of funding for the new building was announced by the federal government on Thursday, Aug. 29. (File photo)

By Elaine Anselmi

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.

Groundbreaking on the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre’s new facility on Thursday, Aug. 29. (Photo courtesy of Isuarsivik)

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.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Waste on

    The program has 2% success results
    Funding would be more beneficial if it was distributed to all Nunavik communities

  2. Posted by Unhealthy on

    All this money into the facility, and an uneducated local staff. A few questionable trained councillors, that will sure have to suck up to their leaders who are not educated, the same old stuff. Healing of families, that’s a joke for sure. And unique in Quebec. This is so great, it’s frightening for anyone with any common sense. Nothing will change for the better in this. The only change is the amount of wasted dollars that could be channeled to the needs of Nunavik. So Nunavik goes on and on into its unhealthy ride thru time and space, until, one day it’s absorbed into non existence. If they are talking about healing families, this treatment center surely is a waste. It would be more effective to start proactive programs for school kids who could be deterred from substances abuses, oh, the lawyers can’t wait for sure, to get their clients in the treatment instead of jail.

    • Posted by JANI on

      I know about 5 people ,who had a choice, jail or rehab and they all choose rehab, better then being locked up and all re still drinking

  3. Posted by HAPPY HOUR on


  4. Posted by Wonderful News on

    This will certainly have a positive impact on Nunavik. Addictions are at the root of many problems and having a quality Recovery centre in the region can only be beneficial. Congrats to Isuarsivik Staff and Board Members.

  5. Posted by Nunavummiut on

    We can thank Makivik Corp for using the airlines to funnel all the money from Nunavut into Nunavik.

    • Posted by juu on

      too funny… its why you need southerners to run your affairs. Makivik takes care of us much better than your GN. Same people, huge differences in standard of living between nunavik, nunavut

  6. Posted by beneficiary on

    Again, putting money into one basket. How about the rest of the communities ?

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