Ottawa, GN commit $83.7 million jointly for Aqqusariaq Recovery Centre
Centre will be in Iqaluit; NTI to train staff and develop programming
Dignitaries from the federal and territorial governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. all grabbed ceremonial shovels for a “tundra-turning ceremony” Monday to mark the start of construction of the Aqqusariaq Recovery Centre.
“Together we’re building a space to help our fellow Nunavummiut. We love them, we support them, and they are why we are here,” Nunavut Health Minister John Main said.
Aqqusariaq, formerly known as the Nunavut Recovery Centre, will be an $83.7-million treatment and recovery centre for Nunavummiut dealing with issues related to substance abuse.
The name Aqqusariaq was chosen because it is an Inuktitut term to describe the trail one goes through to reach a destination, and is symbolic of a journey to recovery.
Aqqusariaq will use Inuit cultural practices and values in providing treatment for addictions and trauma, including on-the-land healing camps.
The centre will have 24 beds.
For the funding, $42.1 million will be provided by the federal government while $41.6 million will be come from the Government of Nunavut.
Also, NTI will give $5 million for project costs and is committing $11.8 million for the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. to train Inuit counsellors.
Construction begins in the fall of 2023 and is expected to be completed in December 2025. An opening date has not been set yet, GN health department spokesperson Danarae Sommerville told Nunatsiaq News.
Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu spoke at Monday’s ceremony, as did Nunavut MP Lori Idlout, NTI vice president Paul Irngaut and Main.
Irngaut emphasized the training to provide an Inuit workforce for Aqqusariaq will improve mental health outcomes of patients.
“When Inuit are cared for in Inuktitut, it increases trust, security, comfort and engagement,” he said.
Hajdu echoed Irngaut’s point.
“Aqqusariaq will be a special place,” she said. “It will be designed by Inuit, for Inuit.”
Hajdu said the federal government will provide $9.7 million a year for the centre’s operating costs.
Main said the governance structure for how Aqqusariaq will be run is still being developed but no matter what it looks like, it will be key to work with NTI to develop an Inuit workforce.
Main also emphasized the importance of having a partnership with the federal government as well as NTI on this centre.
“We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t have this partnership,” he said.
In June, the GN awarded Arctic Fresh Projects Inc. the contract to build Aqqusariaq for $67.5 million. Main said cost overruns mainly due to inflation are why the project’s price tag is now $83.7 million.
The GN is taking on more of the cost than was initially planned, and has requested more federal funding from Infrastructure Canada, Main said.
“But at the end of the day, the project is going to get built,” he said.
The investment in Aqqusariaq is a part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action No. 21, which calls for sustainable funding from the federal government for healing centres to address the emotional toll leftover from the residential school system.