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ITK wants alcohol industry to help with treatment, counselling

Inuit leaders call for Arctic-specific programs to help problem drinkers



Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami representatives plan to lobby the alcohol industry to give muscle to the feeble amount of addictions treatment available in the Arctic.

The move was approved by ITK’s board of directors, a panorama of Inuit leaders from across the country, during their annual general meeting in Nain, earlier this month.

Jose Kusugak, ITK’s president, said the alcohol industry in Canada has shown they’re willing to promote healthy and responsible drinking in their national advertisement campaigns. Brewers already sponsor a national campaign urging people not to drink and drive, or to avoid drinking while they’re pregnant.

Kusugak feels the industry should do more when it comes to Inuit.

“I know the dysfunction of families in the Arctic has not come overnight,” Kusugak said after the AGM on June 9-10. “It has taken years for them to get to the point that many of them are depending on alcohol.

“And it’s not going to be overnight, by a quick slogan, that we’re going to stop them from drinking.”

Currently, many Inuit seek drug and alcohol treatment in the South. There are four treatment centres for Inuit, including one in Labrador and two in Nunavik.

Inuit from Nunavut have little choice for specialized residential treatment, besides going to Ottawa.

During their recent meeting, the ITK board committed to improving a long list of Inuit health care needs related to drug and alcohol abuse. Their focus was on bringing treatment and counselling closer to home.

The board’s resolution also pushes for Health Canada to develop an Inuit-specific strategy for tackling all addictions, in their National Native Addictions Prevention Program.

Onalee Randell, ITK’s director of health, said the next step will be to discuss the idea with Health Canada and alcohol industry representatives.

Kim Dingwall, communications director for the Brewers of Canada, said they’ve teamed with indigenous groups in the past, such as the Native Physicians Association. Industry funding allowed that group to design videos, games, and posters about responsible drinking aimed at First Nations.

“We do like to work in partnership,” Dingwall said. “But our primary area is prevention.”

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