Ottawa, ITK target $11 million for Inuit suicide prevention

Federal minister calls it ‘top-up’ on existing funding; Idlout says it’s still not enough to meet Inuit needs

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu speaks alongside ITK president Natan Obed at a press conference in the House of Commons foyer Thursday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A multimillion-dollar plan to stem the high rates of suicide in Inuit communities drew sharp criticism just hours after it was announced Thursday morning.

In a joint announcement on Parliament Hill, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the federal government said they will invest $11 million toward ITK’s National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy.

The money comes from the 2022 federal budget, and ITK will allocate it to regional organizations, said president Natan Obed.

“It will be up to regions to decide which priority areas they want to focus on,” Obed said.

“When new allocations are created, our board of directors uses a funding formula to allocate funds to all four Inuit regions across Inuit Nunangat.”

However, in Question Period Thursday afternoon, Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout criticized the announcement, saying it falls short of meeting the needs of Inuit.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Patty Hajdu responded, calling the money a “top-up” on suicide-prevention funding already in place.

After Question Period, Idlout said she will continue to pressure the Liberal government to do more.

Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout says Thursday’s funding announcement falls short. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

“Even as a top-up, it’s not enough,” she said. “Canada, as a huge country, needs to make sure it’s doing better at serving Inuit in a culturally appropriate way.”

ITK’s suicide prevention strategy was implemented in 2016 to address the high rates of suicide in Inuit communities.

That included $9 million in federal funds over three years, according to Indigenous Services Canada. In 2019, Ottawa allocated an additional $50 million over 10 years.

The funds announced Thursday will be allocated over the next two fiscal years, Obed said.

“Not everybody has access to supportive programs or supportive people, or approaches that are truly built to help people when they need it the most,” Hajdu said in announcing the funding.

“This is incredibly, incredibly important work. I can’t think of anything more important, actually.”

Obed said it’s difficult to quantify the exact suicide rate in Inuit communities. In its 2016 strategy report, ITK estimates the suicide rate in Inuit communities is five to 25 times higher than the rest of Canada.

He said work needs be done to ensure suicide rates are accurately counted so that as they hopefully decline ITK can track where work has been successful and apply that to other areas.

“The work that we have done to quantify deaths by suicide has often been piecemeal, and our own researchers reaching out to every last corner and every last jurisdiction to make this more readily available so that we can use it as a metric for success,” he said.

Obed said it’s up to individual regional organizations to ensure even the smallest Inuit communities get the support they need through Thursday’s funding announcement.

“Sometimes the work done at the national level is not known at the community level, even though the funds have been allocated and the work is happening in concert,” he said.

“There are always more things that we can do at ITK to help people in communities.”

Sylvie Bérubé, the Bloc Quebecois MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, said she hopes some of the new funding will be used to support Inuit in her riding.

“It’s important that it’s effective,” she said, in an interview in French from her office near Parliament Hill.

“We’ll have to see how it will be allocated and when, so we will verify that.”



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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by Same Old on

    True to form nothing is ever good enough for Lori…

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      Her comments are indistinguishable from parody.

      “Canada… needs to make sure it’s doing better at serving Inuit in a culturally appropriate way.”

      How about Canada helps fund ‘Your plan’ and you can design whatever ‘culturally appropriate’ response you wish?

      All I see in her comments is the subtle cry that Inuit led government and organizations are unable creatively approach or address their issues.

      I, the MP of Nunavut, cede all the power (and responsibility) to the State of Canada to ”do something about it!”

      Our MP repeatedly exhibits an incapacity to do anything more than fall back on predictable, hackneyed jargon.

      Nunavummiut need much more than this.

  2. Posted by frank on

    the way i see it, but wont really matter or work is, if each community gets a multi-purpose facility that is strickly made for such matter. a place where every age in the community can go to. a place were music is available for those who need to relax, a sports room, were an individual needs to go to, to go ease his/her mind, a cooking room, were an individual can go to, again, to ease his/her mind. a sewing room, were an individual can go to. a shop for any individual who might be able to relieve his or her mind off from any negative thoughts. this would also introduce elders to new jobs, as elders to advise individuals, not in a direct action, but by doing stuff with any disturbed individual by indirect means by giving positive actions and kind words that elders are best at. whoever that can come up with this idea, or able to build a building like this, would be so helpful to the whole community and more likely to the troubled individuals that need help so badly. but that remains to be my idea.

  3. Posted by What’s the plan, Lori? on

    I’d love to hear your plan, Lori. You always say the same thing, moar, moar, moar…. but moar for what? Your constituents would love to hear your ideas on how to help solve this crisis.

  4. Posted by NTI has no mental health workers on

    Doesn’t matter if it’s one million, eleven million or a hundred million. If the money is given to NTI instead of service providers it will disappear into their coffers like all the other funding they get.

  5. Posted by Qanurli on

    Evidenced-based strategy, but can’t manage to tell if numbers are up and down?! ITK also received 9 million dollars in 2016. Is there any public achievement or evaluation report for the last round funding? Is ITK’s monitoring, evaluation and learning framework being resourced and implemented? Has the existing funding allocation structure been reviewed to ensure it is effectiveness (re: “Sometimes the work done at the national level is not known at the community level, even though the funds have been allocated and the work is happening in concert”? Many are frustrated with the various bureaucratic hoops needed to get help. How is a new layer of bureaucracy and MOUs going to prevent any further tragedies?

  6. Posted by Truestory on

    The best remedy is out on the land. Teach them about hunting, fishing, the usual Inuit stuff. Teach the life skills out on the land. Bet you most of them don’t know how to fish or hunt.

    • Posted by G-man Choi on

      Bringing them out on the land can help some but they need help with their mental health, they need therapy and the only way for that is to put money into a facility and good mental health workers. The problem is most of them are from the south and don’t wish to live up here, so the facility should be in the south. This way you have a constant patient/therapist relationship, which is the most important part of therapy. the patient needs to be able to trust their therapist fully and that comes over time.

      • Posted by Another truestory on

        Well that’s just about the silliest idea ever.

        Make a bad situation worst, by doing as suggested.

        Unless you’re from outer space somewhere or have your head buried in the sand, you would be aware of what happens when individuals are sent south for medical reasons . You need only to peruse NN stories from earlier this Summer, with patients dying in traffic accidents and escorts, making drunken fools of themselves.

        No! Sending South, individuals with mental issues to resolve, is not to be considered the solution.

    • Posted by JOHNNY on

      What about learning to work ?

  7. Posted by Donald on

    That’s great and all but here in Nunavut when you have to work with the GN h
    Ow will this be done?
    For decades the GN have been sitting on their hands and not addressing the suicide epidemic that is going on here.
    No matter the amount of money thrown at the GN they can’t or won’t do a whole lot.
    How will the GN help?

    • Posted by How can GN do more it ITK & NTI get the Funding on

      The Federal Government needs to realize in Nunavut ITK and NTI dont deliver health services. The GN does. Why do they keep giving this funding to agencies that just hire consultants or do studies? We can expect the GN do change what it’s doing if its not given the resources, and pouring all this cash into ITK is not helping. Give the money to the GN to staff up mental health workers or to build facilities.

    • Posted by G-man Choi on

      Same old story, blame the GN for everything, maybe look in the mirror to see who the real problem is.

      • Posted by Tim on

        But when you look at it closely it is the GN responsibility and the GN on many levels has done a very poor job.
        Like others have said what has the GN done to address this?

        Maybe because of all the mishandling by the GN ITK and the Feds decided to try something different and try with NTI.

  8. Posted by Virtue Signals on

    Land Claim Organizations exist to ensure their land claim is implemented. They are not service providers. They have no experience providing mental health services. They do not serve the public. In NTI’s case, they do not serve all Inuit, only the elite.
    They are also not accountable to the public. For NTI, they are accountable to 17% of the Inuit who vote in their elections.
    They are also not held accountable by the Gov of Canada. They were provided millions of dollars to TB. How is that going? Oh wait, they don’t spend it for its intended purpose and Canada doesn’t take the money back.
    Canada needs to stop giving these entities money it should be giving to public government or true non-profits (land claim orgs are not non profits or charities). However, they seem more keen to virtue signal than actually do anything, and NTI and the other land claims orgs are happy to receive the money, take 10% or so for “administration”, hire their favorite consultant (or whoever they know, maybe even themselves as a side business) and burn the balance. What a way to do business.

    • Posted by Two faced on

      I find this extremely funny, with some of you crying that NTI should be doing more, pretty much take over what GN should be doing, now you are saying its not NTI’s job.

      But one thing I can agree on is that the GN has done a terrible job to date.

      • Posted by Virtue Signals on

        The idea of replacing a public government, essentially one with basically all Inuit MLAs, with a land claim organization that cannot tie its own shoes, is a complete joke and a dream of the naive. The GN is already an indigenous government so it makes no real sense.
        The GN can do better but Nunavummuit really fare poorly holding the department of health to account.

  9. Posted by Inuk Person on

    Yay, it’s time for endless meetings and strategies and reports for the next two years!
    ITK’s predecessor, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC), did several great things to change the face of Canada (created a territory that contains 20% of the country’s landmass, and the NS training program in Ottawa).
    ITC was created by a group of people who realized their communities were facing exact same problems (wildlife restrictions, mining exploration/development, children sent to residential schools). ITC land claims negotiations were also led by a group of Inuit who went to residential school and experimented on by the federal government (Peter Itinnuaq, Eric Tagoonaq, and Zebedee Nungaq).
    Amazingly, all these people were born in igluvigaqs (igloo) on the land and grew up the traditional Inuit way. These people then managed to change Canada within a short period of time. Ironically, since the education is not forced upon the Inuit anymore, and the language now has a writing system, the Inuit are not taking advantage of the education system.
    The main point is that Inuit can make massive changes when utilizing organizations to push for their wants and needs and achieve them. The Inuit need to create a non-profit organization that will greatly benefit its people (make education resources, enter the housing market, apply for UN food aid funding, etc.).
    This organization could be the administrator (proposal and report writing) because we can expect that the $11 M can be accessed by writing hefty proposal and report writing that requires third party funding. We need to start production concrete pro and re action results, our people are still suffering (hungry, no house), and still taking their own life.

    • Posted by S on

      Agree, or disagree with you, Inuk Person, but I enjoyed reading your comment

  10. Posted by Wacker on

    Where does the money goes? tell me the real trueth be honest where?

  11. Posted by Copperinuk on

    Why ITK? they’ve literally isolated western Nunavut as it’s like we don’t exist to them. Nvr once in my 40 + years living in western Nunavut have I heard of anything ever happening here in my community that ITK will be hosting or even co hosting for that matter. Yet in the Kitikmeot region all together.

    • Posted by Talk to NTI on

      Talk to Aluki and ask her to ensure that this years ITK Nunavut meeting is held in the western Nunavut. They just held a meeting in Nunavik so they can manage it anywhere. Factor in that they do own a hotel in Nunavut and may want the dollars to go there.

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