New childcare centre for Inuit opens in Ottawa

Pirurviapik Childcare Centre offers traditional food, language instruction and activities such as throat singing and drum dancing

Kathleen Jadan, early years manager at the Pirurviapik Child Care Centre, and Heather Ochalski, a director with Inuuqatigiit Centre, stand outside the new Pirurviapik Childcare Centre in Ottawa. (Photo courtesy of the Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families)

By Meral Jamal

A new $1-million childcare centre for younger Inuit in Ottawa is, literally and figuratively, a place to grow.

The Pirurviapik Childcare Centre opened on the site of the former Rideau High School and will provide culturally relevant programming to 49 Inuit infants, toddlers and preschoolers, funded by the City of Ottawa, the Ontario government and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

The centre is operated by the Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families to serve the needs of the city’s urban Inuit community and give Inuit children “a sense of pride in being connected to our culture,” said Inuuqatigiit’s executive director, Stephanie Mikki Adams.

She said the name of the centre — Pirurviapik — means “a place to grow,” and was chosen by one of Inuuqatigiit’s community members.

Ottawa has the largest Inuit population outside the North. According to Statistics Canada data from 2016, approximately 1,280 Inuit were living in Ottawa at that point.

As the CBC reported, however, agencies serving Ottawa’s urban Inuit community say the population of Inuit in the capital is at least 3,700 and as large as 6,000.

Younger Inuit attending Pirurviapik will get to learn different aspects of Inuit culture and tradition, as well as the Inuktitut language.

“A lot of our parents went to residential school and so there’s some of our elders or parents were afraid to teach their children [Inuktitut] even after residential school,” Adams said.

“Also, some of us still don’t know how to speak Inuktitut, however we are now learning [the language] and to have pride in ourselves, to have pride in our culture … to learn about our traditions.”

Pirurviapik students will be surrounded by Inuit art, traditions and culture, such as sewing, throat singing and drum dancing. They will get to eat country and traditional food, which will be available to their parents as well.

According to Adams, such programming is important because it’s a direct response to recommendations put forth by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its final report.

“[The TRC’s] calls to action said that Indigenous children urgently need culturally relevant early education and childcare programs,” Adams said.

“We’re ensuring that the centre is able to act on any of the calls to action, that the [education] sector is able to act on what we can.”

For Adams, Pirurviapik ultimately is an Inuit-specific childcare centre providing “a holistic approach [to early years education], because we recognize that serving a child means also serving the entire family.”

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by More Inuit Needs Met Outside Than Inside on

    Sure would be nice to have something like that in, you know… Nunavut.

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