Ottawa college comes north to train Sanikiluaq shelter workers

Hamlet’s shelter supervisor hopes training program will empower local women to ultimately run women’s shelter

Heavy machinery works on the site of the future women and children’s shelter in Sanikiluaq on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Ron Ladd)

By Jorge Antunes

The Hamlet of Sanikiliuaq is partnering with Ottawa’s Algonquin College to train the first cohort of staff who will work at a women’s and children’s shelter that is slated to open in June 2024.

The college began training five women from Sanikiluaq to work in the hamlet-owned shelter, which is now under construction.

Instead of sending the future shelter workers south for training, the training program has Algonquin sending its instructors North to lead the 10-month program in Sanikiluaq.

“Through this program, we are empowering these women [students] to work with women in their community” Bev Rumley, the women and children’s shelter supervisor for Sanikluaq said in an interview on Wednesday.

Cultural and community considerations will inform students’ education, she added.

The training provided by Algonquin College is being tailored specifically to the needs of the women of the hamlet. The college, in coordination with Rumley, is working collaboratively with students to develop the curriculum.

For example, students are studying the broad field of social work in Canada, but then breaking it down and highlighting specific aspects that might be more applicable to local circumstances.

“It’s very flexible,” she said. “Thanks to Algonquin College, they are able to do this for us.”

“[We] are creating the courses as we go, but still meeting the curriculum required for Algonquin College,” she said.

At the end of the program in May 2024, graduates will come away with a social work certificate provided through Algonquin College’s corporate training program.

“This is the first time anything like this is being done,” Rumley said.

The work, she hopes, will be used to inform and inspire future programs for shelters being developed in other communities, such as Pangnirtung. Pangnirtung had initially expressed an interest in participating in Sanikiluaq’s program, but ultimately declined.

Funding for Sanikiluaq’s women and children’s shelter was first announced in February 2023 through the Indigenous Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative, a federal government program developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Indigenous Services Canada.

Construction of the approximately $11.6 million women and children’s shelter began in late September and is expected to be completed in June 2024, said Sanikiluaq SAO Ron Ladd on Thursday.

In addition to shelter supervisor Rumley, the shelter will provide three full time positions and two part time positions. The shelter will have seven rooms, providing capacity for 14.

Shelter residents will share a kitchen with onsite laundry, a training committee room and secure play areas.

Rumley who is Cree from the Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 Alberta relocated for the position. “This is now my home. And the community has been amazing and embraced me,” she said.

Even still, she said, success for her will be when she can walk away. When the shelter is staffed and run by community members in Sanikiluaq.

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