Ontario Inuit group gets $3.3 million to fight sexual exploitation

New funding will support Alluriarniq program for five years

A group of Inuit living in Ottawa gather for an educational exercise that’s run through the Alluriarniq program at Tungasuvvingat Inuit. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

Ontario’s Inuit organization, Tungasuvvingat Inuit, got a $3.3 million injection of cash from the Ontario government this week that’s aimed at helping Inuit sex workers and young Inuit victims of human trafficking.

Over the next five years, the money will go into TI’s Alluriarniq program to help Inuit who are “exiting human trafficking situations,” Jennisha Wilson, the Alluriarniq program’s manager, said in a news release.

Alluriarniq means “stepping forward” in English. The program, which employs nine staff, was set up about four years ago to help Inuit over the age of 16 who are involved in sex work, or who want to exit the sex trade, as well as victims of sexual violence and abuse.

It’s not clear how many Inuit — in Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada — are involved in sex work.

But TI says that since 2017, the Alluriarniq program has helped more than 75 Inuit escape sexual exploitation.

Alluriarniq’s staff includes counsellors and wellness workers who focus on sex education, harm reduction, health advice and life skills.

And the program’s mobile outreach workers drive around Ottawa giving out things like blankets, deodorant, condoms and other items.

Through those efforts, Alluriarniq has helped more than 2,000 “street-involved” Inuit, the release said.

“This investment provides significant support for Inuit survivors of human trafficking who have trusted Tungasuvvingat Inuit to help them on their healing journey from sexual exploitation,” Wilson said.

Wilson said TI will use the money to hire and train two full-time Inuit workers, and that they’ll create an advisory committee for the program in 2021.

The money is part of a $46 million spending announcement the Ontario government issued Dec. 10 to fund 27 projects across the province, as part of the provincial government’s anti-human trafficking strategy.

Alluriarniq is one of only two projects in Ottawa to get money through the strategy.

“Human trafficking” has a broad meaning, but Public Safety Canada defines it as including the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of human beings through violent and coercive forms of control.

“There is still a lot of work required to combat human trafficking, especially in Ontario, which has some of the highest rates of human trafficking incidents in Canada,” Wilson said.

TI describes itself as the only Inuit-specific service organization for urban Inuit living in Ontario, offering about 30 programs and employing about 100 people. They estimate that about 40 per cent of Canada’s Inuit population now live in southern Canada.

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