Iqaluit resident appeals development of Umingmak Centre

Centre at odds with Happy Valley neighbourhood’s zoning designation, says neighbour

Naya Reynders is a neighbour of the house in Iqaluit’s Happy Valley that is slotted to become Arctic Children and Youth Foundation’s Umingmak Centre this April. She appealed the development, saying that it is not a residence or a residential care facility and does not fit into a residential zone. (Photo by Courtney Edgar)

By Courtney Edgar

Plans to turn a vacant house in Iqaluit into a safe space to offer services to abused children is getting push-back from a neighbour.

Naya Reynders is appealing plans to turn the house next door to her Happy Valley home into the Umingmak Centre, which will offer support to child victims of sexual abuse, violence or other trauma.

The project is spearheaded by the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Justice, RCMP and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Reynders, who spoke at an Iqaluit development appeal board hearing Monday night, said she supports the Umingmak Centre’s mandate.

But she contends that the centre does not qualify as a “residential care facility,” which is how ACYF describes the centre in its development application.

“Looking at the plan, it is quite obvious that the primary use of this space is a workspace or an office for multidisciplinary teams to address trauma,” Reynders wrote in a Feb. 27 email, the day before the appeal deadline.

“This area of town is not zoned for offices and that is stated in the development permit.”

She told the development appeal board that she understands the organization would like the centre to feel like a residence. Part of the Umingmak plan is for the building to look like a home on a quiet residential street so it projects an image of safety.

“But the feel of something and the actual use of something is quite different,” Reynders said.

In her view, the centre does not fit the criteria of a residential care facility, since there are no plans to offer supervised in-home care for those who need assistance with daily living.

“I believe that the city and the developers need to be more transparent and correctly define the centre as a workspace and office as this is the primary use of the majority of the building,” Reynders said.

Sarah Clark, ACYF’s executive director, and one of three employees who would work at the Umingmak Centre, said that 68 per cent of the building will be residential, 26 per cent office space and six per cent mechanical space.

The residential space is intended to be used for families who need to travel from other Nunavut communities for medical, social and legal support after a child is abused.

“After hearing the purpose and operation of the Umingmak Centre, and the proposed use of House 562 as a centre to improve the response to child abuse, we hope that the development appeal board will interpret the centre as analogous to a residential care facility, and acknowledge the large benefit of having such a centre in Nunavut,” Clark said.

She also explained that she followed the development application process under the guidance of the city.

Jennifer Jarvis, an Iqaluit city planner, told the appeal hearing that “the proposed use will operate in a manner that is compatible with surrounding uses and will not result in any negative impacts.”

The Umingmak Centre’s proposed use is consistent with the intent and policies of the residential community category in the general plan, she said. As well, she said the zoning bylaw gives a development officer authority to interpret categories as needed.

With that authority to improvise, Jarvis says the proposed use of the building meets all R1 provisions, conditional use criteria and special conditions in Section 5.4 in the zoning bylaw.

About 20 people showed up to the development appeal board hearing. That meant a handful of people had to stand against the wall or sit in empty councillor chairs.

Speaking in support of Reynders’ appeal was her father, John Maurice.

Six people showed up to speak in opposition to the appeal, showing support for the ACYF and the Umingmak Centre.

The director of family services, the child and youth advocate and the representative for children and youth all showed up to speak in support of the centre.

Another speaker was an employee at the Department of Justice, who represented the minister by reading Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak’s Feb. 22 statement in the legislature to announce the creation of the Umingmak Centre.

As well, two of the women who showed up to oppose the appeal shared their experiences surviving child abuse.

Rachel Michael, who helped with the centre’s feasibility study, said she could have used a place like the Umingmak Centre when she was sexually abused as a child.

“I believe the impact has a more positive benefit for the whole of Nunavut,” Michael said.

Iqaluit city council is expected to make a decision on the appeal by April 9.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by IMBY on

    This appeal screams NIMBY (Not in my backyard). I’m sure if this same situation was to occur somewhere else in town all of the most likely privileged people opposing this right now would not be opposing it and possibly even supporting it. Sad!

    • Posted by John Maurice on

      The Nunavut Housing Corporation is building no new houses this year, we need hundreds more residences in order to combat overcrowding, which leads to all sorts of abuse. Meanwhile, the city is institutionalizing residential neighbourhoods and thus decreasing the number of family homes. This is the issue: residential neighbourhoods are for family homes, not for bars, restaurants, offices, beauty parlours or businesses. The city should develop more lots for institutional purposes before they decrease the supply of family homes.

      • Posted by To be fair on

        To be fair, that house could have been purchased many times over by the Housing Corp for that purpose. The Umingmak centre is not a bar, restaurant, beauty parlor etc.

    • Posted by I care about sexual abuse on

      The opposition to this centre is unbelievable. I know there are people in Iqaluit who can stoop pretty low, but I did not realize there are people who could stoop even this low and try to stop a badly needed service for defenceless, vulnerable, powerless abused children.

      Sexual abuse and child abuse has been epidemic in this town and in Nunavut for many many years, it is known in many, many, families but the perpetrators, such as male elders and family heads are never charged. Why? Because the children are too afraid to testify and are threatened if they go to the police.

      This Umingmak Centre will help children prepare to go to court and tell the police and social workers what was done to them. And these NIMBY people want to stop this?

      • Posted by Suputi Street on

        No one was in opposition to providing services to children experiencing trauma.
        The city provided bad advice to AFCY by stating that this is a residential care facility when that is not what it is.
        The city should not be cutting corners to avoid zoning bylaws, community consultation, variance requests that the development requires.

  2. Posted by Political on

    Let us make this political. Who does not want this safe haven in their neighbourhood? Are the people who are complaining not from this area? Or are they settlers from another part of Canada or another country? Why have Hate for young children who were sexually abused? Why do you not want to be apart of the community? Why do you not want to help the community? Why are you so judgemental?Why did you move to a community where another persons culture and tradition is completely different than your own?If you do not like this safe idea than may I suggest you move away. Shame on you.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      You may disagree but you are making huge assumptions (e.g. that those in opposition moved here, don’t contribute or want to contribute to the community and have hate for victims of abuse). If you disagree explain why and stick to that. Your comment does not add to the conversation and, in fact, promotes hate…which it sounds like you are trying to advocate against.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      Your comments are not helpful and are full of assumptions (eg. those not in favour aren’t from here, don’t contribute to or don’t want to contribute to the community, have hate toward victims of abuse). If you disagree that’s fine, explain why and stick to that. Your comment adds nothing to the dialogue other than hate…which I think is what you are advocating against.

  3. Posted by Suputi Street on

    The appealant is Nunavut Inuit. At the meeting she stated she lived in that street for 23 years. She was born and raised in Iqaluit. She plans to live in the house that she owns and raise her family and live their indefinitely. A majority of the residents of that street live in homes owned by the Iqaluit housing authority. Where are they supposed to move to if they oppose the changes to development in the neighbourhood? It’s ignorant to think that Nunavut Inuit have the mobility to move residences considering the challenges of residential infrastructure in Iqaluit.
    Nobody is apposed to the mandate of the ACYF. The appellants made that clear several times.
    The City of Iqaluit has done the ACFY a huge disservice with the advice that they provided the organization to classify the deleopment as a residential care facility despite the fact that that is not their primary mandate.

  4. Posted by I care about sexual abuse on

    “The appealant is Nunavut Inuit.” – Irrelevant to the issue.

    “At the meeting she stated she lived in that street for 23 years.” – Irrelevant to the issue.

    “She plans to live in the house that she owns and raise her family and live their indefinitely.” Irrelevant to the issue

    “A majority of residents of that street live in homes owned by the Iqaluit housing authority.” Irrelevant to the issue.

    Total content of Suputi Street’s comment = zero.

    • Posted by Suputi street on

      The information is relevant to the comment made by “Political” that the “setters” should “move away”. Those statements are ignorant and the residents of this street don’t have this option.

  5. Posted by Don’t like it? Leave! on

    Any space that will help our young people is WELCOME, no matter what part of town you live in.
    There is no room for elitism in Nunavut – humanity and compassion should be the priority.

  6. Posted by oh ima on

    It’s just sad that some people opposed to this on a technical level a bylaw to oppose an issue that is insidious and plaguing our communities. One more barrier to healing that victims don’t need in terms of healing!

  7. Posted by Veronica N Dewar on

    I don’t think it should be in the residential area period. It would be a disturbance to the residents I’d it is allowed. I am sure it would be busy even at nights and evenings, noise from vehicles and in and out. Just giving my view on it. It should be in a area that is business oriented area.

  8. Posted by House owner on

    I am a house owner here. Come be my neighbour!! We would welcome you with open arms. What a good use of a house that isnt being used. I hope the city has the good sense to throw this nonsense out. The city need to focus on our real city issues–like our water infrastructure. Stop wasting their time with this silliness.

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