Nunavut must do more to help abused women and children, says MLA
“We must try to imagine what it must be like to live in fear for your children’s safety”
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone is calling on the Government of Nunavut to address the territory’s high rate of domestic violence in the territory.
During a member’s statement on Wednesday, Feb 20, he pressed the government to show empathy for the women and children who are affected.
“We must try to imagine what it must be like to live in fear for your children’s safety, to know that you should leave, but you don’t have anywhere to go,” said Lightstone.
He said that he appreciated the announcement made by Finance Minister George Hickes earlier that day of “nearly $2 million to strengthen our emergency shelters, set up transitional housing for women, and improve emergency services for women and children.”
About $1 million of this will go to shelters, while about $800,000 will go to more family violence and training initiatives, and $120,000 will go to the Qulliq Nunavut Status of Women Council, a government official said on Feb. 20.
Lightstone asked Elisapee Sheutiapik, the minister responsible for the status of women, what strategy the government has to address the high rates of domestic violence in the territory, both in the short and long term.
Sheutiapik said that it had been a challenge to address issues for women in the territory when the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council had only one staff member.
She added that the council would be receiving new funding as part of the nearly $2 million for emergency shelters, transitional housing and emergency services announced in that day’s budget address, permitting the hiring of another staff member.
Lightstone asked Sheutiapik whether she believes that domestic violence leave should be incorporated into Nunavut’s Labour Standards Act to protect all employees across the territory who need to take time off work in order to flee from domestic violence, as has been done in numerous provinces.
The Nunavut Employees Union has proposed domestic violence leave during recent collective agreement negotiations.
Sheutiapik replied that she knows that Justice is working on this issue.
Lightstone also raised the Family Abuse Intervention Act, which was passed in the legislative assembly in 2008, with the intention of providing “Nunavummiut with the tools to logistically intervene and to prevent abuse by focusing on the immediate need for safety with simple and efficient processes that are consistent with Inuit societal values.”
These included community intervention orders (CIO), which are used where a person may fear violence and their partner is willing to participate in creating a healthier relationship, or emergency protection orders (EPO), which come into effect when a person is suffering from serious violence and needs immediate protection.
Lightstone asked the minister if “she believes that the Family Abuse Intervention Act has been properly implemented to assist individuals that are currently facing domestic violence.”
Sheutiapik said that responsibility for the act does not lie within her department, but said, “The money for that purpose has been increased a little bit, so there will be more help.
MLA asks what has changed since report into sister’s death
Lightstone submitted a written question to the minister of justice, asking how and when recommendations made in a 2016 report following a review of Lightstone’s sister’s death have been carried out. The recommendations were intended to improve risk assessment and prevention of deaths related to domestic violence.
In a further written question, Lightstone asked “specifically how appropriate interventions by health care practitioners have been implemented since the recommendations were first put forward in 2016.”
A day earlier, Lightstone had demanded action on the high rate of sexual abuse of children in the territory.