Plans advance for Iqaluit wellness hub despite COVID-19 hurdles

‘We want a really accessible community space in the heart of downtown,’ says promoter Gwen Healey Akearok

The Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre is spearheading the drive to build the Inuusirvik Community Wellness Centre, seen here in an architect’s rendering, in Iqaluit. (Image courtesy of the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre)

By Jane George

The drive to build the Inuusirvik Community Wellness Hub in Iqaluit continues despite new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just keep going,” said Gwen Healey Akearok, executive and scientific director of the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre, which is the organization behind the hub’s construction.

“It’s like a four-year labour of love to get this building going and now we’re facing more setbacks.”

Akearok helped found the independent, non-profit community research institute in 2006.

The hub would bring health research, Inuit-specific counselling and early childhood education under one roof, she said.

It would be located at the corner of Queen Elizabeth Road and Fred Coman Drive in downtown Iqaluit.

Gwen Healey Akearok, the executive and scientific director of the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre, signs the land lease for the future Inuusirvik Wellness Hub in Iqaluit. (Photo courtesy of Gwen Healey Akearok)

“We want a really accessible community space in the heart of downtown,” Akearok said.

“If we think of what we want a building to do for families and children, we want them to be accessible. We want it to be a place where children and families go and services come to them. We know this will work and we want to evaluate it so it can be replicated in other communities.”

But COVID-19 keeps driving up the cost of the project, due the increased costs of materials, transportation and labour, Akearok said.

“Every two months, the new quote for our building goes up and up and up,” she said. “Initially it was going to cost $4 million and now it’s up to $10 million.”

She said hopes to be able to keep costs lower by using local labour rather than bringing in a construction crew.

To raise the money now needed for the project, Qaujigiartiit is fundraising online and approaching federal departments for support.

The goal is to purchase the building materials next March for the sealift, with a view to start construction next year.

The hub’s two-storey, 9,000 square-foot space would include a multi-purpose community space, a meeting area, the Tasiuqtigiit day care, llisaqsivik counselling offices and the Qaujigiartiit centre.

Accessible from the street, people would enter into a big circle off where there will be doors leading to the various spaces: “we call it the drum,” Akearok said.

Last year, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency invested $225,000 to support the completion of engineering, architectural and geo-technical drawings and documents for the hub.

Qaujigiartiit contributed $125,000 and the Qaujigiatiit Corp., its social enterprise division, gave $25,000.

In March, Akearok signed the land lease for the property where the hub will go up, hopefully by 2023.

This summer, the plan is to move the two properties now on site and prepare a pad for the hub.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nunavuumiuq on

    That is good news! A community wellness centre is so badly needed. Like Ilisaqsivik in Clyde River, it will need an all Inuit board to steer it’s purpose and goals. One hopes the daycare will also be all in Inuktitut cause the moment English is permitted, it takes over. The spelling of Qaujigiartiit should be ‘Qaujigiaqtiit’ as per the standard spelling rules. Question, what dialect is the name – Inuusirvik? It doesn’t make sense as it doesn’t sound like a traditional word to our south Baffin ears. It’s in Iqaluit so it needs to respect the southern dialect.

    • Posted by Work of Art on

      I am not sure of this is hyper-woke, or world class trolling… I suspect the latter and the subtle uncertainty makes it all the more respect worthy.

      • Posted by Ironical on

        If you’ve even felt unsure what ironic means, it’s complaining about the use of English, in English

    • Posted by Be more specific where the “standard” spelling is from on

      In Nunavik,
      We are taught with “r” for ra-gaapik from Inuk, Kamik, Tupiq
      “Arqutik” road
      “Sikkitaq” square
      “Quaq” frozen
      “Uluk” woman knife and we also ee ulu, same thing from different region
      “Tupiq” and “tupik” they both can have different meaning in different dialects
      It is impossible to have a “standard” writing, spelling, speaking, in Inuttitut, Inuktitut it is all based where you came from. Each town, have their own way of saying a word and that word can totally mean the opposite some times. You have to be open and know where your other fellow Inuit came from.
      Pitatsak/mamarsautik =sugar and perfume
      Manarsautik/tipautik =perfume
      Tasijuak,uviniujaak,ikirnguak=socks (all in Nunavik)
      Same thing for “Illuk”/ “illuvigaq” some say igloo and we still hear people debate about illuvigaq. Nobody is wrong until they start to change their own dialect.
      In Nunavik, we also have those who spell with “q” for “aqqutik” . It is not wrong if it’s their way of spelling. And if the spelling/writing so important, check the old writings, they had no allaagusikuluk. See how your elders 70+ write.

  2. Posted by Inuusiq on

    that does not make any sense to call a place Inuusirvik. perhaps a dialect I do not know. qujannamiik

  3. Posted by Nunavuumiuq is so right. on

    Right on the spot about the southern dialect. Qaujigiaqtiit is the right word for southern Iqaluit dialect. if they call it Inuusirvik would is so wrong. We need to use more of Capital of Nunavut dialect more often. Not from other settlement’s dialect.

    • Posted by Or We Could on

      Or…we could show our respect and appreciation of all dialects rather than just southern Baffin? Hmmmm? How much of our population is from other hamlets?


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