NTI forges ahead on social issues

Mobile Nunavut healing program almost ready to go


Two years into her mandate as president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Cathy Towtongie says NTI is starting to show solid results — among the most tangible is Nunavut’s new Qauma Mobile Treatment Centre.

“It will be unique in Canada,” Towtongie said in an interview this week. “I think it’s a positive step, and it’s about time.”

Spearheaded by NTI and funded by a $2-million, four-year grant from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the Qauma Mobile Treatment Centre would visit most communities in Nunavut by 2007, offering help to the survivors of residential schools.

“It reflects NTI’s commitment at the first reunion in 1993 of Joseph Bernier residential school students. It took a long time — 10 years,” Towtongie said.

NTI staff will have that agreement finalized in about a week.

NTI’s social and cultural development coordinator, Monica Ittusardjuat, a former residential school student, was instrumental in obtaining funding for the Qauma project.

Quama will bring a team of traditional and non-traditional healers into four communities a year for month-long sessions.

The focus of the centre’s work will be on issues facing survivors of residential schools, but it will also deal with the inter-generational effects of trauma from physical and sexual abuse.

The centre, which is expected to start by the end of this year, is scheduled to visit Sanikiluaq, Chesterfield Inlet, Kugaaruk and Igloolik.

A committee of survivors will help decide which communities Qauma will visit next.

“At least 16 communities will participate in the centre by the time it ends in 2007,” Towtongie said.

NTI has also approved a pilot project for beneficiaries with disabilities that would offer $2,000 per community to use for programs to assist disabled beneficiaries.

At the same time, NTI is setting up a task force that will develop a strategy for those beneficiaries and find ways to draw on existing sources of money to fund programs for them.

Towtongie said she’s looking at other “creative and innovative ways” for NTI to work on practical issues such as social housing for elders and others with limited incomes.

However, she said she can’t devote NTI’s money to solving every problem.

“My hands are tied by Nunavut Trust,” Towtongie said.

She said NTI can lobby the territorial and federal governments for money to run programs.

“We’re coming up with something that suits Nunavummiut on housing,” Towtongie said

A joint NTI-GN social housing advocacy group will lobby Ottawa for more social housing money under Articles 2 and 32 of the Nunavut land claims agreement, which specify special Inuit rights.

NTI could then partner with the Nunavut Construction Company to build houses at cost, similar to the way Makivik Corp. has used provincial and federal money to build more social housing in Nunavik.

Towtongie said NTI may also lobby for actions that don’t cost government a cent.

Her newest suggestion: that the soon-to-retire Prime Minister Jean Chrétien name two Inuit women to the Senate to represent Inuit women, youth and elders as part of his legacy to the North.

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