Iqaluit MLA challenges GN to crack down on child sex abuse in Nunavut

“We need to train our teachers and our nurses how to identify symptoms and flags of child abuse”

Rates of child sex abuse abuse are 10 times higher in Nunavut than in the rest of Canada, but it doesn’t look like much is being done about it, Iqaluit- Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone said Feb. 19 in the Nunavut legislature. (File photo)

By Beth Brown

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone is demanding that the Government of Nunavut do more to address rampant sexual violence inflicted on children in Nunavut.

“I’m going to raise an ugly topic that people do not like to address—it’s the issue of child abuse in Nunavut,” Lightstone said in the Nunavut legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 19, during a member’s statement on the first day of the three-week winter sitting.

“It is our duty to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” he said.

Citing a report by the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, Lightstone said that Nunavut children experience rates of abuse 10 times higher than the national average.

There are almost 500 registered sexual predators in Nunavut, Lightstone said, quoting figure the Department of Justice had given him.

“We always hear about it in the media … and yet it appears that nothing is being done to address it,” he said.

“I call on this government to create a campaign to raise awareness for frontline workers, as well as parents and children. We need to train our teachers and our nurses how to identify symptoms and flags of child abuse.”

Do Nunavut prosecutors struggle to win guilty verdicts?

“These children making allegations of child sex abuse have to take part in court proceedings and that can be traumatic for them,” said Lightstone, adding that often, children are forced to relive trauma when they are re-interviewed about their experience with abuse.

Lightstone asked Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak if she sees any trends in how allegations of child sex abuse are investigated in Nunavut.

And he asked if Nunavut prosecutors struggle—as other jurisdictions have—to win guilty verdicts in cases where child sex abuse is alleged.

“Do prosecutors in Nunavut face similar difficulties, and what are they?” Lightstone asked.

Ehaloak said she didn’t know, but she said she would find out if Nunavut judges and lawyers do face challenges when it comes to prosecuting child sex abuse allegations.

“The increase in violations against children in Nunavut is troubling,” she said, adding that known violent crime against children has doubled in Nunavut over the past few years, in part because more children are reporting incidents.

Support for children who are victimized comes through community justice workers, Family Services staff and the RCMP, she said.

“There are services available in our community for those children who need assistance to carry on with their daily lives, to not walk the streets in fear of being revictimized,” Ehaloak said.

Lightstone’s statement comes in the wake of other media reports that a fugitive oblate priest charged with abusing Nunavut children is no longer under warrant for arrest.

The statement also follows the spring sentencing of former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko to eight years in prison for child sexual abuse he did over a 35-year period, and the exposure of Igloolik businessman Ike Haulli as a child sex predator, following an order that he pay $1.22 million to four victims.

In the fall, Canada’s national Inuit organization pledged to take action against the sexual abuse of Inuit children.

Lightstone praised those efforts by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed and said that the Government of Nunavut and other Inuit organizations should also commit to reducing sexual violence faced by Nunavut children.

“It is imperative to talk openly about child sex abuse in our communities,” Lightstone said. “I call on the government to address the issue and to protect vulnerable children.”

Lightstone also tabled 19 written questions for the Department of Justice and read them into the record.

Most ask about the GN’s policies for registering sex offenders, policies for notifying the public about sex offenders and how many sex offenders are convicted of sex crimes against children.

The questions also ask whether registered sex offenders are required to notify the GN if they change their address, or their name, or if they travel out of their communities.

The government usually replies to written questions with detailed written documents that are tabled in the house, usually at a later sitting.


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(36) Comments:

  1. Posted by Finally on

    Yes. It’s about time. Focus on ending the vast number of crimes being committed on children in their own communities, usually by their own families. That’s where the generational trauma and the social issues come from. The kids deserve better. Put aside tribalism and protecting the adults and making excuses for them. The problems originate from within the community, recognize that individuals are responsible for their own behaviour, and start dealing with it.

  2. Posted by keep it up on

    It’s an important topic. There’s too much sexual abuse in Nunavut. I’m so grateful that I didn’t grow up in a home like that and neither will my kids, but it breaks my heart that we live in a territory that normalizes it. If you ask some of the older MLAs they prefer to blame family Services than to look deep down at the disturbing flaws within their families and communities. They may be elders but they are normalizing the problem. This issue has to be rooted out of Nunavut, and punishing the criminals isn’t enough. That’s a bandaid solution. We need to look at why people do it and find a way to curb it. No kid deserves to grow up with that kind of trauma.

  3. Posted by Sadness on

    No one wants to deal with it. Its like pulling a loose thread and the whole shirt unravels. Get a room full of people from Nunavut in a room and ask everyone who hasn’t been sexually abused in some way to sit down. I guarantee all but maybe two people would still be standing. Where do you even start?

    Hurrah for colonialism. Well done.

    • Posted by Ever boring on

      Yes of course, blame colonialism. We have a problem solver here folks. Check it out!

      • Posted by sadness on

        You’re right. It’s best to pretend it doesn’t exist. Better to victim blame and say the problem has always existed. It’s easier that way.

        • Posted by Nope on

          There are too many sloppy assumptions in your response. Back to logic class for you.

          • Posted by Sadness on

            Because I disagree with you? I’m quite happy with my reasoning ability and compassion, thanks. If I need classes on arrogance and smugness though, I’ll be sure to come to you for help. Have a nice day!

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      We all know about the high-profile serial sexual predators and where they came from. But the vast majority of child abuse in Nunavut is perpetrated by family members and close friends in other words longtime members of the community. Blaming colonialism for a problem that clearly predates and post-dates the period of contact is neither helpful nor rational.

      • Posted by Hopeful on

        Dear Northern Guy,
        You are correct that most sexual abuse is done by a family member or someone close to the family. This is true of this crime in all populations around the world. In almost all cases, it is a male person close to the family or in the family. Around the world, rates of this type of abuse are also consistently higher in societies that have recently experienced collective trauma, such as natural disaster, war, or colonial impositions, and any other massive social changes (such as moving into communities) that change patterns of relationships in communities and families. The heightened rates of child sexual abuse are directly connected with the colonial policies and programs imposed on Inuit in the second half of the 20th century. The solution, however, will not be from the outside. The solution lies in healthy early childhood development (to prevent anti-social tendencies amongst potential offenders) and rebuilding of strong community and family relationships (to protect children).

      • Posted by Hopeful on

        Also, there is no evidence that the current rates of child sexual abuse “clearly predate” the colonial period. There is evidence to the contrary — that Inuit had complex systems of surveillance and social behavioural controls, as all stable societies do to keep this crime in check. When a society is destabilized, the those systems get weakened and the opportunities for this crime increase. It is a predictable outcome of collective trauma. And, now, there are lots of interventions to help address it. We just need to recognize the root causes and get to work.

  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    We always seem to be at the top of the list for all the bad things….. sexual assaults, assault, murder, child abuse, domestic violence, robberies,…. and please don’t blame it solely on colonialism … great grandmother told me many stories from the pre-settlement days that contradict that theory….. It does no one any good to have those romantic ideas of Inuit in the igloo living some perfect utopian life. Our men and boys are in big trouble.With too many of them I think the privilege of the old male dominated society (pre-colonial) has warped into some sort of sick mutation. Mix that with drugs and/or alcohol and you have a real monster. So many men prey on children and adolescents, other men’s wives and girlfriends constantly and their victims are too scared to report them.Social media has opened up a whole world of possibilities for predators to connect with innocent children and adolescents.

  5. Posted by Find the source of where it came from, Fix the Problem on

    I am very disgusted that there is rampant sexual assaults in Nunavut. This sort of very disgusting things started happening when the Federal government and the Territorial Government let it happen, they did not screen their employees properly, for instance Ed Horne and the many Oblate Priest, why don’t you use their actual Names? are they above the Law?. And these sexual assaults generated from the Abuser to the victim, and the cycle of sexual assault starts where the victim of the abuser is now the Sexual Abuser. I have a fault with the Federal and territorial governments and I strongly condone the way they approach the problem. The Sexual Assault cycle has to stop, and it has to stop now! Own up to your mistakes, I say that to both Federal and territorial government, and to those who commit these heinous crimes

    • Posted by Stop blaming government on

      Stop blaming government, abuse in inuit communities existed long before they had involvement with any sort of organized government. You want names named? What makes you think most of the names would be of outsiders? A few predators came from outside of inuit communities, but not most of them, and those few probably found it so easy to abuse kids because the kids were already used to it. As another commenter says above, it wasn’t all roses in the pre-contact days. It’s not mainstream communities that have such incredibly high rates of child sex abuse, it’s Nunavut ones. It’s not coming from outside, and you can’t fix it if you’re convinced you are a victim of some outside force rather than your own dysfunction.

      • Posted by Find the source of where it came from, Fix the Problem on

        There can never be reconciliation when there is no truth from the Government! Either you hate Inuit very much or you never gone through experiences that Inuit went through. I condoned every aspect of Sexual Abuse, and you just look at the government aspect, it seems as you are the protector of the governments actions and the Priest that came along with them.

      • Posted by sadness on

        Yeah, all those rapes at the government and Church sponsored residential schools that almost every, single child from that generation attended would have little to no effect…
        There’s a big difference between what went on “pre-contact” and the kind of sexual abuse that has gone on in massive amounts in the last 60-70 years. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable or makes you angry, but it’s true. It’s not even debatable. The government and churches admit it. They allowed sex abuse to go on for years, and they turned a blind eye to it and even hid the abusers. In doing so, they created more abusers for the next generation.

  6. Posted by Jean mills on

    WHAT services are available in communities for children to report child sexual abuse?
    Would that be front line nurses who are overworked to the point of exhaustion? Would that be social workers stretched beyond their limits while positions lie vacant? Would that be underfunded community outreach workers? Would that be school sexual education programs that get toned down to nothing because someone working at that school thinks it will cause kids to have sexual if you talk about it?
    I’ve seen the perpetrator cheered by his male friends as he is taken out of the community after being charged-/ and they weren’t cheering because he got caught! This is the depth of the problem, many adults still don’t see it as wrong!
    In 2016 the depts of finance and health renegotiated the contract with agencies that they were, for better or worse, dependent on for adequate nurse staffing in the communities, where over 60% on nunavumiut live. It made an already difficult staffing problem immeasurablely worse. Deputy ministers and their underlings stupidly assumed all those agency nurses would just come on over and work for the GN. They didn’t. Oh some tried but the recruiters aren’t nurses and the hiring system is so badly operated very few were successful and those that were often left because they felt lied to and bullied by upper management. PEOPLE HAVE DIED because of this one decision. There was no money saved. The number of medivaces doubled, tripled because people can’t get appointments in a timely fashion. The number of complaints of poor practice going to RNANTNU has skyrocketed in part because of the ignorance of a nurse recruiter who is not a nurse and was hiring nurses who were completely out of their depth in the north and couldn’t do the job
    Child sexual abuse is a legacy of the residential schools. All cultures have a history of child sexual abuse that historically was ignored and swept under the rug Adam Lightstone is so right. It’s time to speak up about it
    Pat Angnakak pulled no punches in her resignation from cabinet speech. Self interested southerners in upper management positions are standing in the way of real progress in Nunavut.
    It’s going to take generations but hopefully brave people like Adam Lightstone and Pat Angnakak will make a difference.
    I was a nurse in Pond Inlet for many years. I did what I could. I got so fed up with how badly managed the department of health was that I ran for MLA. I had to leave because my family needed me but my heart is in Nunavut. Keep up the good work Adam. The truth is eventually going to win

  7. Posted by Silence on

    Even this newspaper silences people who speak out about child abuse. The real causes can never be mentioned.

  8. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on

    It’s funny that no one talks about the slave child in the family. Those children are passed around to male members of the family.Being a girl child they are treated like objects not people. It breaks my heart thinking of some of those children picking suicide as their only option. Who does this child tell and turn to for help?

    • Posted by Jean Mills on

      All over the world in virtual all cultures children have been abused. For too long it has gone witnessed silently and ignored. The same is true for women.
      Just because it’s historical fact everywhere doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.
      It’s wrong wherever, however and for whatever reason it has occurred.
      Healing starts with naming it, calling it out, saying loudly that it is wrong and won’t be tolerated
      Some very brave people in Nunavut have done just that, they have suffered in their communities for doing it. We need to support them and stand with them and help others to come forward

  9. Posted by jack Anawak on

    As someone who was sexually abused, several times, in the Church-run Residential School I attended, I want to congratulate Adam Arreak Lightstone for his courageous act in raising this Topic of Child Sexual Abuse in the Legislative Assembly.

    We have to ask ourselves, why does the GN avoid this subject for 20 years?
    What do they fear?
    Is it too big for them even to consider?
    Do they think it is a minor priority?
    Are they afraid to speak about it?
    What is the rationale that keeps them from talking about it and taking action on it?
    It is very discouraging that so many children in Nunavut are victims of predators.

    I want to see the Department of Justice, Health and Family Services get right on this subject.

    We may be tempted to blame the Priests, the Brothers, the Nuns, aberrant Social Workers and even others who have come to this land.

    Well, the problem is really us; we do nothing about this and the victim numbers simply pile up. The Trauma that these kids carry weighs on them throughout their lives.

    We Inuit are also to blame; the majority of kids are sexually abused by us Inuit, not by outsiders. Yes, we got some weirdos coming North, but we all have to look in the mirror and see who is in the reflection.

    Our Silence has condemned whole generations of little kids to be used and abused!

    As the Trauma and discomfort builds in their lives, they seek alcohol and drugs to escape, to outrun the flashbacks, to numb themselves out and to forget for a mere moment, while high. This cycle is repeated over and over again, until they themselves are in trouble with the Law, with their families and with their neighbours.
    Why let it all play out like that?

    Early intervention with little kids by trusted, caring people can show kids there are boundaries with what you can and cannot do to them; that their bodies are their own!
    If this is done, it has been proven, the Trauma is lessened, they do not search for mind-numbing substances and they have a fuller understanding, plus an emotional vocabulary, about what happened to them.
    Kids can move forward when they get this kind of quality assistance.

    We Inuit have to take this very seriously.
    This is wrong!

    We should not be silent anymore. It is time to talk about it, so start now!

    WE have to take strong stands with each other, since so many Inuit are also the enemy of so many young children!

    • Posted by Kudos on

      Mr. Anawak, congratulations! Thanks for being such a role model and saying it like it is. More of this is needed so we can move forward to the healthy life we want and deserve.

  10. Posted by Caroline Anawak on

    I am so proud of Adam Arreak-Lightstone!

    There should be many more MLAs raising this over the last twenty years, however. the silence has been deafening.

    When I worked for the Dept. of Health, I developed in 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding regarding Child Sexual Abuse for all the Deputy-Ministers and Ministers to come together to sign on to, and a strong, social marketing campaign to set the record straight that Child Sexual Abuse in Nunavut would never again be tolerated!

    You can imagine my extreme disappointment and deep, long-lasting frustration, when my Director informed me “it would never fly with the Cabinet, much less with the DMs”.

    If that had moved forward, back in 2009, I believe it would have lowered the numbers and greatly reduced the suffering of children in Nunavut. It would have changed attitudes and set the bar for human behaviour far higher.

    Imagine! A strong, collective voice at the highest levels in the Government of Nunavut addressing one of the most dysfunctional behaviours towards children and youth!

    Congratulations to Adam!

    • Posted by What? on

      Did this happen while Jack was a cabinet minister? And Jack you say the government avoided this for 20 years. What did you do or say when you were the mla within those 20 years?

    • Posted by Butter Ball on

      Dear Caroline, I am sure that your well meaning memorandum would not have done much to change the entrenched inertia and attitudes on this issue. I’m sure you worked hard on this, but declarations like this rarely seem to change much.

  11. Posted by KB on

    Qujannamiik. I have never been so proud of an MLA. Keep up the great fight Adam, it is appreciated and does not go unnoticed.

  12. Posted by And then what on

    Adam, tell us, please, what needs to be done?
    What should the eight Cabinet Ministers do?
    What can, what should, each and every one of us do?

  13. Posted by Marrianne Badley on

    I have lived and worked in the Arctic, mostly Igloolik as a social worker. Sexual assaults were normal, too normal, and when they happened, little was done. The predator, more often then not, walked out of court with his hand slapped, and little else.
    The victim/victims were left feeling terrible, feeling lost and empty. Even the community looks at them different rather then looking at the predator.
    I do not know why it is so rampant in the north. In the south, predators are punished and are registered as a sexual offender in any community they live in. They do go to jail, they are held accountable, but not in the north.
    I do miss that little hamlet of Igloolik and would easily return.
    I think the police, and the communities have to rally together to end this cycle.
    Hopefully bringing it to the surface will allow the victims to take a stand, and the communities will then stand with them.
    It is time for it to stop and to allow these innocent kids, to live their life without being in fear.

  14. Posted by CB on

    Yes, there are historical influences on abuse. However we know this to be true: anywhere, anytime, the most likely child abuser is a person known to the child (uncle, brother, cousin, step-dad, neighbour, mum’s boyfriend, etc.) and the best way to prevent it is to keep an eye on your child. Don’t turn this responsibility over to babysitters, teachers, nurses, etc. It’s your child, look after them.

  15. Posted by Northstar on

    Congratulations Adam, I am happy to hear this has finally been brought up and out into the open. Yes, this has been happening all over the world for centuries and finally someone stood up to say “NO MORE”. I believe to make Nunavut Territory better, it first starts with Healing and Education. I feel when someone gets help and wants to stop and heal, they will empower themselves and the rest of the community around them. It takes a long time to heal but well worth the time. This will break the cycle each generation. It just needs to start…thank you for standing up and starting a better future for your children.

  16. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Teachers and School Community Counsellors have been trained in Respect Ed and ASIST (Suicide Prevention) for years and I know that at least in some schools they in turn do the programs with the students. Perhaps the department needs to follow up and make sure this training is being used so that children understand that their bodies need to be respected protected and they can stand up for themselves. Also important is to deal more appropriately with the offenders. Pedophiles can’t be “cured” . They need stiffer sentencing for these perverts. To the victims out there ….I am speaking as a person who has been assaulted three times in my life by a baby sitter, my grandfather and a “friend” of my father…… I know it is scary, humiliating, embarrassing, you think it is your fault, etc……it is none of those things…..those abusers are garbage, sickos, who should be in jail……but don’t let them rule your life forever….make them accountable and call them out and then get on with life in the best way you can. Don’t let that be a heavy chain around your neck for the rest of your life. Find your resilience and rise above.

    • Posted by Who So Ever ? on

      Some teachers and councillors ( off all races ) are the worst
      Social services does nothing about it, even when it is
      reported to them.
      RCMP say their hands are tied ?
      Quit all the WORKING TOGETHER B.S. , cos it ain’t going to

  17. Posted by Just wow… on

    Why is everybody congratulating Adam on bringing this up, like it’s some act of courage? It’s f***ing 2019, okay… good, you brought it up, nice, but.. so what? Unbelievable!

  18. Posted by Oh Ima on

    Wide sex abuse of children is sickening, it doesn’t matter now whether is caused by colonialism and can’t call it a cultural thing because it is not. Impact of residential school amplified it due to rampant sex abuse by the priests in Nunavut and around the world it is intergenerational trauma. Now the thing to do is to acknowledge it, heal from it and believe a person that reports sexual abuse instead of not believing them.

  19. Posted by Tagak Curley on

    I commented and thanked MLA Adam A. Lightstone on FB for raising serious child sexual abuse(s) in Nunavut.
    Training our school teachers, and I may say Nurses, is very important and needed, urgently.
    In more than one occasion I too have been told child sexual abuses also happen in schools. In one case, child was abused by teacher. For strange reason the Nurse was not willing to take the swap as required, claiming she could not see the evidence which the mother could see plainly. Case closed.
    Our schools must be one of the safest places for protection from pedophiles aside from family home.

    • Posted by Really?!!! on

      Really Tagak? You publicly fought against, in the legislative assembly; the creation of a Child & Youth representative office that would give these kids another means to seek help if the GN was not advocating for them.

      You wanted communities to deal with these issues and didn’t want this office to have any authority.

      Tagak, this is the old school thinking that perpetuates the problem.

    • Posted by Really?!!!! on

      I agree with everything you wrote above. I had talked myself out of posting about your last acts as an MLA….until I saw you post on here and it triggered me.

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