Healing fund money uncertain for Nunavik group

A suicide prevention group in Nunavik may not meet the Aboriginal Healing Foundations’s criteria.



KUUJJUAQ — Organizers of Nunavik’s suicide prevention committee want some money from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for their project, but they could be out of luck.

That’s because the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, set up in 1998, only funds healing projects connected with the legacy of physical and sexual abuse at residential schools.

Few people in Nunavik were students at residential schools, apart from those who attended the federal government’s Churchill vocational school, an institution fondly remembered by many Inuit.

On the other hand, former students at the Port Harrison federal day school in Inukjuak during the 1960s have alleged that they suffered physical, cultural, psychological and sexual abuse at their school.

Many Nunavimmiut were, however, relocated to the High Arctic islands, sent to tuberculosis hospitals in the South, or even displaced within the region.

“We’re saying that the government imposed relocation,” said Richard Kouri of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services. “We can argue that the trauma of relocation was equivalent to that suffered at residential schools.”

Nunavik’s health board plans to submit an application to the AHF for its Tapiriilirniq Suicide Committee.

The Kativik Regional Government, Makivik Corporation and other regional organizations in Nunavik have passed resolutions supporting the committee’s proposal.

The AHF has $350 million in its coffers, but little of this has gone to Nunavik. Two projects in Nunavik have received some money: $102,000 for healing programs in Umiujaq and $146,200 for a video on healing.

To encourage more Inuit groups to submit proposals, the foundation’s president, George Erasmus, said in a letter to Pita Aatami, the president of Makivik Corporation, that the “Inuit population has been designated a priority target group by the AHF board of directors.”

Erasmus said that deadlines for the submission of proposals from Inuit communities has been lifted, the AHF has translated its program handbook into Inuktitut, and that Iqaluit resident Lena Ellsworth is now working as the foundation’s community support coordinator for Inuit.

None of these gestures will widen the foundation’s mandate or are likely to increase chances that the application from Nunavik�s suicide committee will be approved.

The committee has representation from youth, elders, and health and social services workers. Its members include Minnie Grey, the health board�s executive director, Johnny Naktialuk, Lizzie Palliser, Eli Qinuajuak, Ittuvik Illisituk, Alaku Qullialuk, Lally Annahatak and Simeonie Nalakturuk.

The committee wants to visit each community in Nunavik for one week to discuss “how can we join together and grow stronger together.”

“Our health and social problems have been increasing in the past 50 years like they never have before. Solutions must be found: life is worth living, and each of us must take responsibility to better our own life and in turn, better our community,” says a poster that the committee has distributed in the communities.

To date, committee members have visited Inukjuak, Puvirnituq and Salluit.

“Each community is different. We’re going to hear from the community about their concerns,” said Emilie Emudluk, who is coordinating the suicide committee’s efforts at the regional health board.

Emudluk said each community is coming up with its own approaches on how to curb suicide.

Visits to date have helped spur activities between elders and youth this summer in Puvirnituq and the organization of an upcoming “Celebration of Life” event for Inukjuamiut.

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