Embassy West’s compliance with regulations misses point: elders society exec

Open letter released last month says Inuit elders at Ottawa long-term care facility face cultural barriers

Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut’s executive director Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley (left) and Anne Crawford, an Iqaluit lawyer working on elder care, speak last month during a news conference about a letter sent to the Government of Nunavut regarding elders living conditions at Embassy West Senior Living in Ottawa. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Embassy West Senior Living in Ottawa may be compliant with Ontario’s regulatory authority, but that fact doesn’t address concerns recently put forward by Iqaluit-based elders society Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut, says its executive director.

Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s organization penned an open letter last month to Nunavut Health Minister John Main, as well as all members of the territory’s legislative assembly.

It includes allegations that some staff members at Embassy West won’t say the names of Inuit elders because those names are “too difficult,” elders are not receiving country food sent to them, and psychological assessments are being done without proper interpretation.

Main announced earlier this week that the letter triggered an investigation of Embassy West by Ontario’s Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority. That investigation found no issues of non-compliance.

But in an interview Thursday, Qitsualik-Tinsley said the letter was not about compliance, but cultural barriers.

“It’s great the Ontario standards are met,” she said. “At the same time it doesn’t address any of the issues that were brought up in our letter.”

There is a basic need for Inuktitut communication, including between elders who live at Embassy West, she said. Other concerns include a lack of access to radio in Inuktitut and news about their home communities. 

Main agrees that the territorial government is responsible for cultural-related elements of care for elders outside Nunavut, and says he is serious about addressing these complaints. 

“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” he told Nunatsiaq News in an interview.

Main said he understands lack of access to radio can be a problem, and it’s an issue his department can look into.

He added the Nunavut government has tried to implement cultural programs for elders in Ottawa through organizations such as Tungasuvvingat Inuit, an Inuit-specific urban support service, but COVID-19 has hampered those efforts.

There are currently four Inuktitut translators working at Embassy West. 

In 2015, the Nunavut government released a report on long-term care that described waitlists for beds at the time of 30 people, with a need for as many as 72 more beds by 2035. It also called for a strategy to develop a “co-ordinated approach” to senior issues within Nunavut. 

That strategy has not been developed yet, and Main said he’s committed to seeing it done during his tenure. He didn’t provide an exact timeframe for this work, but did say it could take a year or more.

In the meantime, he pointed to a planned long-term care facility in Rankin Inlet that is scheduled to start accepting residents by 2024. As well, there are facilities planned for Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit.

But Qitsualik-Tinsley wants to see more. She wants elders across the territory to be able to live out their final years in their own communities.

“In the meantime, people are living and dying in conditions they don’t want to be living and dying under,” she said.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Simple solutions on

    “Names are not being pronounced because they are too difficult”
    -Put the name with english phonetic key. Most non-inuit can not pronounce Iqaluit properly, so someone’s long name might be hard to wrap their head around. It can be intimidating sometimes when its not your language, and the fear of pronouncing someones name wrong doesn’t help. If someone’s name was “Iqaluit” for instance, they could put a sign on their door or bed saying “EE-hah-Lou-Wheat”. This would help

    -“Elders are not receiving country food sent to them”
    This could be investigated. CN Cargo loses stuff all the time. I doubt staff are stealing frozen fish and caribou.

    “and psychological assessments are being do so with proper interpretation” but “there are currently four translators working at Embassy West”.
    -4 staff is enough to cover round the clock translations. Like a commenter stated in a previous article, the translators only show up for tea and bannock then leave. Maybe Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikku can recommend some translators who will actually stay for the entirety of their shifts?

    “lack of radio in Inuktitut”. Well, Ottawa isn’t exactly Nunavut, but no one is stopping Ottawa’s urban Inuit from starting an Inuit language radio station. This would be a great way to share stories and news from the ender’s local communities.

    Until Nunavut establishes in-territory Elder Care, Embassy West will have to do. It is in Ontario, not Nunavut, so some of the expectations Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikku have should be met with a reality check.

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    • Posted by Uqaq on

      The 4 interpreters are on call, they are not part of the staff there.
      Ottawa inuit have inuktut radio on Wednesday but it’s for Ottawa inuit information only for 1 hour. CBC north is for Nunavut and have community news the elders can listen to.
      The country food issue can easily be solved by having and inuit preparing food in the Embassy West Kitchen.
      Embassy West can do for now but it’s on the worst place in Ottawa outside the busy highway . For the money that’s spent on contracting Embassy , the Government could have picked a better scenic place.
      If you don’t have a mother, sister , father, grandfather etc. living at Embassy West , you cannot understand the frustration of an elder. May you feel the pain someday yourself. So you can have a reality check.

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  2. Posted by Forever Amazed on

    Are there programs at NAC that provides training for elder care? There is a nursing program. Further, there are courses in southern colleges. Why are Inuit not enrolling in these courses, graduating and working at Embassy West in elder care?
    I was under the impression that FANS paid for out of territory education. If not, there are other sources of funding. Rather than complaining about meeting requirements, how about working on your young people to get into these courses, get trained, finish the courses and work at these places.

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  3. Posted by The news…. on

    No radio? You can connect online for your home news. I am hanging out my shingle for GN consulting: the bill for my advice will be in the mail. Between this advocacy group doing nothing but pointing, and the GN bureaucrats under John Main steering Department of Health off the cliff for years (fire these ADMs and DM please) I think family members should just step up and fix these easily addressable problems.

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  4. Posted by Elder Father on

    There are very valid points and I too believe the investigation should have turned up something. Many of us have seen it. However, the investigation is valid in some of the points.

    What is unfortunate is that some solutions or improvements were not noted, there is always room. Examples only (add more SOLUTIONS to give to GN):
    -CBC radio daily to hear the afternoon Inuktitut shows.
    -GN buy a Nunavut-only building to be used temporarily until not needed when all the elder homes are built in the North.
    -Allow for more training on the job, support, advertising education
    -Full time (or other schedule and/or rotation) Inuk staff or any other positions

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  5. Posted by Cannot Refuse? on

    Given what some think or know, can they just refuse to go? Are there any activists who are helping or stirring this story? They need to be credited.

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