Nunavut’s new MLAs face calls to improve elder care

‘I hope the government takes it as an urgent priority right now,’ says petition organizer Manitok Thompson

From left: Nunavut MP Lori Idlout, lawyer Anne Crawford, former MLA Manitok Thompson and Inuit Broadcasting Corporation chairperson Adamee Itorcheak speak about a petition that calls for better elder care in on Thursday in Iqaluit. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The creators of a petition that calls for better elder care in Nunavut say they hope that the territory’s new MLAs will treat the issue as a priority during their coming term.

“I hope the government takes it as an urgent priority right now,” Manitok Thompson said at a Thursday news conference.

Thompson, a former Northwest Territories and Nunavut MLA and cabinet minister, says she wants a special committee on elders set up by Christmas in the legislature.

Each MLA has been given a copy of the petition, along with a list of constituents who have signed it. The petition’s organizers are calling on them to table the petition in the legislature.

The petition calls for a basic elder facility in every Nunavut community, along with plans to bring elders home from southern long-term care facilities and more training and education to ensure elders’ medical needs are met in their home communities.

“Communities are being robbed when their elders are being sent away,” said Anne Crawford, an Iqaluit lawyer who also helped organize the petition.

It began six weeks ago, after the Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut board, which is run by Iqaluit elders, instructed Crawford to “go out and cause trouble,” she said.

They recruited volunteers in each community and set up times for people to collect signatures, Crawford said.

It has now grown to 22,704 signatures, 19,000 of which have come from across Canada, 3,085 from Nunavut and 600 from overseas.

In Kinngait, 59 per cent of eligible voting adults signed the petition, and the Nunavut Association of Municipalities passed a resolution to support the petition in its recent meeting.

“It reaffirms that Nunavummiut care — they want their elders back,” said Nunavut MP Lori Idlout during the news conference.

Idlout said if the federal government meant its promises to truth and reconciliation, then it should help provide better treatment of elders.

She said she has directed her staff to look into ways she can advocate for support from Ottawa.

There are at least 43 Nunavut elders at Embassy West, a long-term care home, in Ottawa, and more in homes in Edmonton, Yellowknife, Winnipeg and Fort Smith.

The Nunavut government plans to build elder care homes in Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit in the next few years and there are currently three open elder care homes in Cambridge Bay, Igloolik and Gjoa Haven.

Baker Lake’s has been closed for three years, and Iqaluit’s has been closed since May, with all the elders removed from the home due to what the government said was COVID-19 complications.

When asked why previous governments weren’t able to provide adequate elder care, Thompson said the foundation of the government is not based on Inuit qaujimajatuqangit, or traditional knowledge, and that that should be a priority.

“They should be the foundation of a society, especially in the Inuit culture,” she said.

The sixth legislative assembly will sit for the first time Friday.

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(27) Comments:

  1. Posted by Elder Elder on

    In a perfect world, we elders should stay in our communities and receive care as and when we need it.
    In a perfect world, there is no child abuse, no spousal abuse, no substance abuse, no homelessness, no hunger, and everyone has plenty of country food to eat.
    I am an elder.
    I say we don’t live in a perfect world.
    I say I’ve lived a mostly good life and I will try to keep living a good life. But I will not do it at the expense of others. Mostly, I’ve had my time.
    Nunavut has a few hundred elders,, plus a dozen or so more every year. Nunavut has about 800 newbabies every year.
    Government, help the babies. Make sure they have a place to live, food to eat, and people to care for them.
    Some of us elders can help with that. But do not sacrifice the babies for our benefit. We’ve had our time. They did not ask to be born. But since they have been born, you are less than nothing if you don’t help them.

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      Very moving, and I agree that we do not live in a perfect world.
      But I would ask why we cannot have both excellent care, love, and respect for our elders in their own community, and great care, love, and learning for our young children.
      Traditionally families have been multi-generational, all living in the same house. This is true of most societies in the world, and frankly it’s one reason that many societies did not see more deaths in the first wave of Covid-19.
      Maybe we should take another look at how multi-generational families can be housed under the same roof in Nunavut & Nunavik.

      • Posted by Oh Ima on

        no one asking for a perfect, Inuit are just asking for the same services that are available to non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. This is just one issue of many that Inuit and other Indigenous people do not get to enjoy that most settlers get to enjoy in this so-called beautiful loving country of Canada.

        • Posted by Settler on

          I’d say one of the big differences is that down south most elder care facilities are paid out of pocket by the elder’s loved ones, often at a cost of 30 or 40,000 dollars a year per resident, with the government assisting a bit on top of that. Is this what you are proposing for Inuit?

        • Posted by Your Experience “Down South” May Vary on

          You generalize far too broadly. “Down South” is a big place and conditions are very different everywhere – as you would expect for a provincial jurisdiction.

          My parents’ hometown is bigger than Iqaluit, but the nearest senior citizen complex that they can live in is a 4 hour drive away.

          That is the reality of much of “down south’. It would be nice for my folks to stay in their hometown with their friends – they can’t, the facilities don’t exist, and it is in no way cost-effective to build them. The services available in Nunavut are comparable to much of the country – unless you want to go private, but that’ll set you back 35-60,000 a year.

          Nunavummiut would do better to compare themselves to rural Manitoba or Nfld than to southern Ontario or Winnipeg, the comparisons are more apt.

          • Posted by Some examples on

            New Brunswick, as an example, has 70 long term care facilities. None of them are publicly supported: 10 of them are for-profit, 60 run by private non-profits. And 70 sounds like a lot, but the province has a population of 777,000, about 19 times that of Nunavut. If Nunavut had 4 instead of 3 facilities, so just 1 more, it would have more per capita than New Brunswick.

            And in terms of facilities where residents don’t have to pay to stay there, Nunavut has infinitely more per capita.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Very well said! I think that this obsession with being able to provide care for elders in all communities is short sighted. There is absolutely no way that the Government of Nunavut is in the financial position to build care facilities in every community. And don’t even get started on the impossibility of staffing those facilities with appropriately trained medical professionals. Many elders suffer from complex medical conditions, How is the GN supposed to get a nephrologist or a gerontologist to relocate to Gjoa Haven or Hall Beach to look after three or four elders?

  2. Posted by Standing ovation on

    “They should be the foundation of the society, especially in Inuit culture “ now there’s a Inuk who respect their elders,knows who the elders are, should’ve been the first thing priority at the start of government, since it’s always been Inuit qaujimajatuqangit to let’s elders be first, we have already lost so much elders with tons of information’s of the Inuit way of life, and yet we still loosing them, and the government just facing the other way, I wish you all the best Manitok Thompson, may you Blessed

  3. Posted by Joeli Qamanirq on

    The new Government of Nunavut will have a big work ahead of them. The elder’s care is at the top of priority, as Nunavut-miut and other Territories do not want to see elders being sent out. Part of their soul I think dissipates when they leave their community, we’ve experienced it as our loved one leaves the community for a short time we miss them dearly. So this is how it is too when elders are taken away from their homes. Also I think elder’s center and family center has to be created in each community as one that way the family who lives with alcoholic in small community will have a place to go for a night until their family member sobers up. Jobs can be created in each community as GN mandate is more Inuit workforce.

    Thank you

  4. Posted by Manapik on

    Why didn’t those two ladies initiate the process of getting elder care homes built while they were in positions of power?

    • Posted by Anne Crawford on

      Back in those days we did not have 43 Elders in Ottawa and more in Winnipeg, Fort Smith and Edmonton.

      BUT it is true that there have been multiple strong community proposals for Elder Care in the past. These proposals have not been accepted or given a fair review. Probably Manapik is among the people who have supported those proposals. I can understand that she might be upset.

      It is an interesting question – why do we attack those trying to make change and reward those who say we have to wait or cannot make progress?

      Why does “Manapik” now attack people working on this issue? Would it be better to be silent?

    • Posted by Confused on

      When they are next they’ll prepare for themselves I guess.

  5. Posted by Colin on

    I am hopeful with this new Premier and Ministers it will be a priority and gets done, the last Premier and Minister of Health Hicks did nothing and had our elders sent to Embassy in Ottawa.

  6. Posted by Putting this out there on

    NTI with you wanting us to have self governance… how about you build an elder care center, staff it and make the GN pay you to take care of elders… but not in Ottawa. try build something in Nunavut.
    Maybe QIA, KIA, and KitIA can also each so that and force the GN to contract them to run facilities in their regions.

  7. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    This petition is admirable and very ambitious. No elder should be taken from their hometowns and sent to an alien environment.

    Nonetheless, how is the Government of Nunavut going to pay to build elder care facilities in each community? Where would it find all of the professionals needed to staff all of these centres? How could elders that have special needs get the proper care they need?

    From what we’ve seen, there’s chronic staff shortages at the territorial government level let alone in the health field. If GN was to pay for building these centres and somehow were able to staff them adequately, they would have to cut a lot of programs and services provided to Nunavummiut. Heck, the paltry federal transfers it receives would probably not even cover the costs associated with building these centres, staffing and maintaining them.

    Should the Territory sacrifice all of its programs and services so elders could get proper care at home?

  8. Posted by Elder Elder on

    Yes, let’s immediately build 25 Elder Care facilities and hire about 500 hundred newly arrived residents to Canada (that’s who work in elder care facilities down south) plus a couple of hundred nurses and 25 physicians and several hundred administrators. Let’s also build close to 1000 houses for those care-givers and their families to live in.
    Should we overload the power stations, water treatment facilities, sewage facilities and schools to accommodate all those care-givers and their families, or should we expand the facilities?
    Or, we could use those nurses to keep our health care centers open and those 1000 houses to reduce the over-crowding in our homes.
    Before we build an Elder Care center in a community, how about we build, staff and operate a detox facility and a treatment facility in the community?
    If the community is healthy it can take care of its own elders!
    Do YOU want to live in a facility run by the GN Department of Health? I don’t.
    Elder Care Centers should be built by the community and run by the community, to meet the needs of the community. The community may want assistance from the GN Department of Culture and Heritage. They may want to hire a nurse or two. But I certainly don’t want to live under the control of a doctor who considers me to be an uncurable disease.
    And I certainly don’t want to live in an Elder Center managed by a southern, for-profit corporation.
    Do you want to spend your last days seperated from your spouse, medicated into compliance and sedated to require minimal “care”? That’s elder care, southen style.
    Have you spent any time in an elder care facility down south? Mostly it’s a bunch of people sitting around, waiting to die.
    The Elders in Iqaluit was much better set up and much better run than any southern facility I’ve seen.

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      You are right, the Elder’s centre in Iqaluit WAS much better than any in the south. Not run (but funded) by the GN, but by Pairigait Tigumivik (The Elder’s Society).
      Staffed by bilingual Inuit. Then the GN management decide it was time to micromanage the place because it was expensive to operate.
      Over a million a year for 8 patients PLUS the costs of maintaining the building. PLUS all the additional medical staff required.
      So let’s put one of these units in every community. Huh huh.
      Oh did you notice how the PT pulled out after 25 years of operating the home because of GM managerial harassment and interference? Did you notice the GN use the virus as an excuse to remove those same elders to homes down south?

  9. Posted by Anne Crawford on

    Many commenters should pay attention to the actual words of the Petition, which says:

    QUOTE: There should be a plan, for each community, not just regional centres – to have space to care for elders who need constant care. (NOTE: THIS INCLUDES HOME CARE and DAY or RELIEF SUPPORTS) We need to renovate and upgrade, starting NOW, to create these homes. (NOTE THIS PROVIDES OPTIONS).

    Future buildings are too far in the future that our elders will never see them. We need to:

    1. Build basic (NOTE THE WORD “BASIC”) Elder home in each community and renovate existing elder homes ( FOR ELDERS WITH DIVERSE BUT NOT EXTRA-ORDINARY NEED) AND TO RENOVATE EXISTING LHA STOCK.



    The Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut Society currently has an employee with responsibility to go and visit and spend time with and advocate for Elders who are at Embassy West. SOME ELDERS have complex medical needs, but many do not. SOME want to stay there or do not care, but MANY WANT TO COME HOME.

    ELDERS ARE ASSETS TO COMMUNITIES. WHEN ELDERS LEAVE, THE COMMUNITY LOSES. Most people in Nunavut know this. Most “educated” comments here just don’t trust communities to care for their own.


    • Posted by Piitaqanngi on

      Now why wasn’t this reflected in the article. Would’ve saved a lot of strife. You wouldn’t have seen the commenters’ criticism if this was posted in the first place. The critics of the petition are not at fault for not being given full disclosure.

  10. Posted by monty sling on

    She could not do it whilst as MLA and Minister, now she expects to have this magically done, how????…this is the most arrogant play placing false hope to elders and soon to be elders. Kick her back to Ottawa. It is more reasonable to seek regional elder care homes, more rooms, staff and funds from NTI, RIAs and GN. 3 Ps. NTI put your big mouth into action…get your three regional goons into action…play politics. Earn your fat pay checks RIOs and top Inuk for change.

  11. Posted by Ian on

    John Main,you have a great deal of work ahead of you,dont let the civil servants wear you down on why you cannot tackle the enormous task at hand.bring in a new team of your civil servants,and keep the ones that want to help us all.good luck.

    • Posted by Paul on

      Ian I was just talking about this with my family and friends, its great to have new MLAs in the tackle these issues but our concerns are with all the bureaucracy and the civil servants who don’t seem to want to take charge of the work or to be accountable. Putting up road blocks and more time on why things can’t work in Nunavut instead of working towards it.
      Our MLAs can give so much direction but the actual work has to be done and thats where things run off course and stumble to a halt.

      • Posted by Ministerial Accountability on

        The minister is accountable, not the civil servants.

        It has always been so.

        • Posted by Paul on

          Civil Servants are also accountable, performance appraisals need to be done and when they are not doing their jobs it has to be noted and action taken.
          The direction given by the Ministers and the government has to be followed through, if its not working then changes need to me made.

  12. Posted by M Center on

    No doubt and it’s a given all Elders are a priority and of value in all cultures. And in no way suggesting nor any negative intended efforts to raise awareness and obligations to Elder Care but a point to address is that NU seems to be a “Public Reaction Government” that works as an order or mandate to all social issues decried publicly become the operation Morandi by all Politicians is to finally and immediately act when public finally makes outcry. I

    t’s 2021 and soon 2022, Elder Care should have been first priority or at least established way prior to it being an issue and have recent elects use whatever platform is in discussions publicly. This should have been addressed decades ago.

    Reaction Government is order by all politicians speaking notes and questions and PR are the standard political representation is a reaction to social outcry versus pro-active and immediate address of obvious needs are political speaking crap as verbal repeats of what is already the public outcry is a way to be in and do politics is immature and basically lack vision. NU is still generations away from true democracy and public government when prepared and social issues are understandable and social media and mainstream media are used only for achieved successes and not a verbal public use of outcry by politics to finally do something by value instead as a “Reaction Governance”, but that is a Penny for a thought when Pennie’s are out of currency so my point is moot. Let the hate commence or any critical thoughts. JK lol

  13. Posted by gopublicnotprivate on

    Elders from Nunavut should remain in Nunavut. It makes no sense to separate elders from their communities. It is cruel and not good for their mental health.

    I hope Elder Care does return to Nunavut and when it does it must be publicly funded and regulated so that there is full transparency and accountability and also so that all staff are required to be registered PSW’s, nurses etc. Under the pubic model there can be a complaint process that is accountable and follows due process as is in publicly funded hospitals.

    The elder crisis during the height of Covid 19 has revealed to the world that private FOR profit elder care in Canada is unethical, irresponsible and driven solely by greed and profit as it took the lives of many innocent elders far too soon.

    Long Term Care homes in Nunavut and anywhere in Canada should not be modelled after the private sector placing profits over basic human rights.

    Long Term Care centres are very much like hospitals as they dispense medicines, provide professional health care procedures and advice and so these centres should be accountable by law as hospitals are which requires legislation to be passed at the Territorial level to legally protect the rights of the elders or you are dealing with a very slippery slope of neglect and elder abuse.

    Elders are sacred and built our foundations and so they deserve the utmost of respect and the best care possible. They gave much to us so we need to be responsible and give so very much back to them. Elders are loved and are our knowledge keepers and we need to protect them as we would any family member or community member.

    My heart goes out to the elders of Nunavut

    • Posted by Observer on

      I take it you didn’t notice that recently several communities have had to basically lose medical services at their health centres because there weren’t enough staff to dispense medicines and provide professional health care procedures?

      So where are all the people and resources coming from to operate all these brand new facilities when there isn’t enough staff to keep the ones that already exist operating full time?

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