GN gives stranded patient the brush-off

“They don’t want to help Inuit”


The Government of Nunavut has told Palluq Manning, a homeless diabetic suffering from kidney failure, that since he is no longer a Nunavut resident, he should apply to the Ontario government for help.

Manning, 37, is now stranded in Ottawa because he requires dialysis treatment, a service that is not offered in Nunavut, three times a week to stay alive.

A recent letter to Manning from Wayne Govereau, Nunavut’s director of health and social service programs, dated June 27, says “major medical concerns” require Palluq to live in Ottawa full-time.

“This consequently requires you to become an Ontario resident and therefore qualifies you to be financially supported under the Ontario system,” Govereau told Manning.

Govereau’s letter says if Palluq’s doctors tell him that he is well enough to travel back to Nunavut, he must re-apply for a Nunavut health card. Govereau reminds Palluq that being a beneficiary “does not give you the assistance you need for full-time residency in Ottawa.”

“All of the benefits you would receive through your Nunavut Land Claims Agreement status would only cover you if you lived in Nunavut.”

“It is unfair,” Palluq said in a recent interview from Ottawa.

Govereau’s letter also suggests Palluq re-contact a social worker at Ottawa General Hospital for help. But Palluq said the social worker told him “if I’m not helping you, don’t call me,” so he doesn’t want to call her again.

“I hope something gets done. I need my independence back,” Palluq said.

The GN refused to let Nunatsiaq News interview Govereau about the letter and did not acknowledge that they sent such a letter to Manning.

Onalee Randall, the health director for the national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said Palluq’s case highlights aspects of the Canada Health Act that affect Nunavut Inuit in ways that wouldn’t affect residents of other jurisdictions.

That’s because when Canadians move from one province or territory, they’re supposed to change health cards, but Canadians from other provinces or territories rarely move simply to receive medical care.

“Even if you live in Nunavik, there are major hospitals in the south of Quebec, so it’s probably unique for Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. I hope that what this will do is get people looking at it at a government level, at a territorial level, land claim level and national level,” Randall said.

Meanwhile, Palluq’s supporters aren’t forgetting him. Last Saturday, Iqalungmiut produced a low-key show of support for Palluq by reaching into their pockets for loonies and toonies and spending them at a sale on his behalf.

Palluq is originally from Cape Dorset and a former resident of Iqaluit.

Worried sick about their friend’s increasing difficulty in dealing with his health and in the challenges of living in the big city, Mary Akpalialuk and Evie Eegeesiak organized a “Loonie Toonie” sale of donated items at the Anglican parish hall on July 23.

The sale raised $1,000, which will be used to help pay for Palluq’s room, board and transportation in Ottawa and supplement his monthly social assistance cheque.

To the dismay of the sale’s organizers, no one from the GN – no officials from the health and social services department, no MLAs, and no cabinet members – showed up at the sale.

“They don’t want to help Inuit,” Eegeesiak said, saying the GN has “washed its hands” of Palluq. “That is sick,” she said.

South Baffin MLA Olayuk Akesuk, who represents Palluq’s home community of Cape Dorset, said he can’t make any promises about what he can do for Palluq.

But he said Palluq’s plight shows a need for “a better working relationship” with the providers of health care services for Inuit outside Nunavut.

Right now, Palluq can’t live at the GN-funded residences in Ottawa, Larga Baffin and the Rotel, because he’s no longer considered a Nunavut resident.

Larga Baffin still allows Palluq to eat there with other patients from Nunavut and will continue to welcome him.

But the residence’s manager Trudy Metcalfe, an Inuk from Labrador, says she’s caught in a dilemma: she’s worried about Palluq and other Nunavut patients who are no longer eligible for help from the GN, but says providing the assistance they need in Ottawa lies outside Larga Baffin’s mandate.

Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the Ottawa-based community resource centre for Inuit who live in Ontario, wants to help Palluq find a place to live. The organization has already helped Palluq seek remimbursement for medical supplies he needs.

“TI has to step up to the plate and assist. We’ll make this a priority to help,” said Morgan Hare.

However, Hare said TI didn’t realize how critical Palluq’s case had become until reading about his plight in Nunatsiaq News two weeks ago.

Palluq stays with friends in Ottawa, spending several nights a week at the hospital attached to a dialysis machine that does the work his kidneys can’t do, rinsing the poisons out of his blood.

Tomorrow, Palluq won’t be able to be in Cape Dorset, but his elderly mother is organizing a sale there, with the hamlet’s support, to help out her homeless, sick son in Ottawa.

“We want to do something to help him,” said Mathew Jaw Saviajuk, the mayor of Cape Dorset. “When I heard about it, I thought it was a bad thing. This is no good for anybody.”

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