Two Iqaluit MLAs want action on child sexual abuse in Nunavut

Child sexual abuse likely 11 to 15 times higher in Nunavut than in the rest of Canada

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone wants the Government of Nunavut to look at Killiliisa, Greenland’s strategy to reduce the sexual abuse of children. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Two Iqaluit MLAs told Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak on Tuesday, Oct. 27, that Nunavut needs more action on child sexual abuse.

These calls come in the wake of a damning annual report from Jane Bates, the representative for children and youth, that was tabled in the legislature last Friday.

In that report, Bates referred to a written submission that Pauktuutit and a coalition of regional Inuit women’s groups made to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“The rate of sexual violation of children in Nunavut is between 11 and 15 times the rate for children in the rest of Canada. Child sexual abuse is prevalent in Nunatsiavut and in Nunavik. It has become normalized for children,” states Pauktuutit’s submission to the inquiry.

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak referred to Bates’s report in a question she posed to Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak.

“Mr. Speaker, this is utterly unacceptable. What is the Department of Justice’s position on this issue?” Angnakak said.

Ehaloak replied by saying people in her department care a lot about the issue and that she looks forward to answering more questions next year when Bates is to appear before MLAs to discuss her report at a televised committee hearing.

“We’re very passionate about the people that we try to protect and try to make sure that our children are protected under the Department of Justice’s programs and services, including working with the RCMP,” Ehaloak said.

When Angnakak asked how Ehaloak’s department is working with the Department of Family Services to help victims and offenders, Ehaloak said that’s a subject the department will be “discussing further.”

“Working with the Department of Family Services, we’re always looking at ways to help individuals, especially children and their families, to ensure that their health and safety is priority one,” she said.

Angnakak also asked about discrepancies concerning the number of Nunavut residents whose names appear on the national sex offender registry.

Last week, Ehaloak told Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone that as of August 2020, there were 416 registered sex offenders living in Nunavut and that 209 of them had committed sex offences against children.

But Bates’s report states there are 625 registered sex offenders in Nunavut and that the majority, 438, committed offences against children.

Ehaloak said she’ll get back to Angnakak after she sorts out the discrepancy.

GN hasn’t yet reviewed Greenland program

For his part, Lightstone asked Ehaloak if GN staff have reviewed a Greenlandic program called Killiliisa, the Greenland government’s sexual abuse strategy.

Since 2013, five two-person teams of counsellors and therapists have travelled around Greenland to help victims in small communities recover from sexual abuse.

In 2018, Nunatsiaq News interviewed four workers from the Greenland ministry of social affairs, who said the program had offered help to 670 survivors—80 per cent of whom were women.

An English translation of the Killiliisa strategy suggests that child sexual abuse in Greenland is nearly as common as it is in Nunavut.

The strategy says a recent survey found 32 per cent of girls in Greenland and 9.4 per cent of boys suffered sexual abuse at the hands of either a peer or an adult.

Another survey, of young people in Greenland, found that 33 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men reported that their first sexual encounter occurred without their consent.

“I myself have read this strategy, the English translation of it, and all of the information in there is relevant to our own communities here in Nunavut and not just all the information, but also the strategy itself is transferrable, so to speak, and could easily be replicated and utilized here in our own territory,” Lightstone said.

But Ehaloak said the GN has not yet had a chance to review the Greenland strategy.

“As the members know, this government has been very busy with the pandemic itself and due to a change in our deputy minister over the last few months, I and the deputy minister have not had a chance to review this Greenland strategy, but we will be reviewing it,” Ehaloak said.

Lightstone also asked about programming for sexual offenders and victims in Nunavut.

Ehaloak replied by saying that “hopefully,” Nunavut can do more in the future.

“The programming that currently is being held for sexual offenders who are in Nunavut, hopefully we can give them more programming and hopefully, within our new facility, which is the Qikiqtani Healing Centre, hopefully with the completion of this facility, we will be able to hold that programming right in Nunavut itself,” she said.

Back in 2019, Lightstone had called on the GN to do more to combat widespread sexual abuse in the territory, saying “it appears that nothing is being done to address it.”

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Chainsaw on

    Hate to break it to them, but I’d bet my next hundred pay cheques that those numbers are waaaaaay higher. All of them. The number of boys who are sexually abused, the rates of child sexual abuse, all of it. No one wants to say it and they can’t prove it because it’s horrible for victims to talk about it, but I bet most of the territory has been sexually abused before they were 18. And that is terrible. People will say that’s a negative thing to say, but it is probably true.

  2. Posted by here is a fix on

    Okay so just read this article from a couple days back. Nothing changes, this mother from Iglulik gets off scott-free (a second time) for a terrible-terrible thing and the excuse is just stupid.
    Abuse of all nature is being normalized.

    ***With rulings like this Nunavut gets what it deserves…***

    Bring back punishments that fit the crime and things will change.

  3. Posted by Don’t Deflect on

    “As the members know, this government has been very busy with the pandemic itself and due to a change in our deputy minister over the last few months, I and the deputy minister have not had a chance to review this Greenland strategy, but we will be reviewing it,” Ehaloak said.
    Yes, the pandemic beginning in February 2020 and a new DM a few months ago are the reason you haven’t reviewed Greenland’s 2013 strategy. Don’t deflect, just say “No, we have not reviewed it, but I’d like to thank the member for this suggestion, and I will personally review the strategy”.

  4. Posted by Colonialism on

    The Facebook comments about how this is the result of colonialism are revealing about the local mentality on this issue: they blame it all on colonialism. To me It seems more likely that these practices have become acceptable in Nunavut on a cultural level or was always there. If anything, Nunavut needs to be harsher with offenders and sentence them like they do in Southern Canada. Spend a few weeks sitting in a criminal court in Nunavut to see just how easy they treat offenders, they get bail in the same community of the victim and incarceration is rare. Fsmily services will only intervene in the most grevious of circumstances out of a departmental fear about labeling the protection of children as like the sixties scoop and residential schools. It is almost always Inuit abusing young children in their families. The article goes to show just how little the Minister of Justice cares or knows about this issue. All her answers are deflections. She doesn’t understand how her counterpart at Family Services works on this issue. She has no plan to address this other than to promise to read some reports and talk to the RCMP. Nunavut is backwards on this and will do nothing about it but talk.

    • Posted by Bing on

      I’m white. I’ve got no skin in this game.
      It’s colonialism. It’s the residential schools. It’s the governments’ fault and the clergy’s fault that it became this way. Any idiot can see that.
      It doesn’t mean that a harder line doesn’t have to be taken now again the victims who have now become abusers. But make no mistake, we got here through colonialism and residential school and things of that nature.

      • Posted by Any Idiot on

        Using the blanket excuse of colonialism and racism to say this is why Inuit abuse Inuit children in high numbers is a mistake and distraction. It is clearly a mixture of numerous issues, like socio-economic, colonialism and Inuit culture, but pegging this squarely on governments and churches rather than the Inuit individuals who perpetrated these offences is an error. Some self-reflection by Inuit would do more than the never-ending finger pointing to abstract concepts. This Inuit government, being the GN, should do the same and fix the problem instead of continuing to allow it to fester.

        • Posted by Nattering Nabob on

          To ‘Any Idiot,’ I agree with you and want to say this is a good comment. I appreciate your nuanced approach, because life is almost certainly more nuanced than we tend to give it credit for in most circumstances.
          To respond to the idea that this is the result of colonialism let me add; sexual abuse can be found anywhere that there are humans and differentials in power. In the dynamic between an adult and a child the power differential (some might say the hierarchy) is easy to see, and it is easy to see how it could be exploited. We don’t need to reference a larger meta-narrative about the subversion of a civilization to explain or understand this.
          That said, colonialism certainly introduced an entirely new set of hierarchies and disrupted traditional social organization in Inuit society, no doubt. That instances of abuse occurred under the new regime, manifest most notably through residential schools, is tragic, but not controversial nor surprising; nor should it be controversial that instances of abuse would have occurred long before colonialism. To deny the latter and rely on the former as an explanation for the all instances of abuse on the present context is simplistic and transparent in its motivations.

  5. Posted by Tyrion Lannister on

    Almost all of this is Inuit on Inuit abuse and violence, Inuit adults abusing Inuit children and getting away with it because they can.
    Historically the worst abusers were elders, camp bosses, family and community leaders who used their power to exploit powerless women and children.
    Some of them saw their existing power enhanced by the church, the RCMP and the HBC. So colonialism partly comes into it. For example, I know an adult woman who was raped as a child by her RCMP special constable uncle. That guy is now a so-called respected elder.
    There is another famous elder and church leader who took in foster kids with his wife. He constantly abused the kids put in their care for years. Fortunately he was convicted of some charges but he is still a respected so-called elder. Nobody gives a shit about the children of course.
    Colonialism is only partly responsible, but the Inuit families and communities who allow this to go on are the ones who are accountable.
    This is why people constantly go on and on and on about Ed Horne and Father Dejaeger, because they want to blame it all on outsiders and will not look at what is going in their own families.

  6. Posted by Consistency on

    Let everyone know who the abusers are. List their names and year of birth every January for say minimum 20 years after conviction (if they repeat the offence add another 20 year to the original time. Dont list their victims or any info to go along with it (those that know the true story know anyway and those that dont have all the details dont need to know). It might be viewed that it is worse if it happens to a 10 year old then it is if it is to a 25 year old but sexual abuse is sexual abuse.
    And yes the GN needs to fire and drop contracts with anyone that is on this list.

    Also their needs to be support programs for the victims so they do not end up following that path as well. It is not the victims fault they were abused but it also can not be an excuse for them to become abusers. They need help breaking the cycle.

  7. Posted by Anomak on

    I have been dealing with the effect of child abuse in all it’s aspects, mind, body, sexual, physical, spiritual and these effects have been forced upon all people around the world by abusers who use the colonization system because this system is abusive in it’s very nature. Anything goes to get lots of money and make this tool more valuable than people. The breakdown of Inuit society started a long time ago, the colonizers speeded things up because they want the land, mineral, animals, air, water for their own wants instead of everybodies needs. We have all suffered abuse, being born into addictions, suicides, grieving, makes it normal, seeing, living, breathing bullying from the highest powered people makes it normal, powerful people using sex in anyway makes it normal. It is not normal, wake up everyone, we are all in this together. There are solutions, like in Greenland. Change what is important, people instead of money, having enough instead of lots of materialistic stuff, healing takes a lifetime, a three week workshop instead of a three day one. Being a steward of the land instead of owning it. Make each person important instead of only the self. Confronting the abuse, talking about the abuse instead of sweeping it under the rug. It will take time, planning and including everyone. Making changes in all levels of the community, starting with leaders who are willing to heal instead of making a name for themselves.

  8. Posted by Frank Sterle Jr. on

    A 2007 study (The Science of Early Childhood Development) states: “The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation.”

  9. Posted by Cam Bay get out and vote next election on

    Seriously Ehaloak? You need to step up to the job or step aside. Your response to questions are pathetic. You have let both of your departments fall apart under your nose.
    Using covid as an excuse is so very wrong. These are innocent children!

  10. Posted by Worst Cabinet ever on

    I have not seen such a pathetic bunch of losers. Their failure to protect anyone but themselves is so very clear. I have seen zero leadership on any of the hard issues only wasted words. I don’t know how they sleep at night.

    And joe if you think a Cabinet shuffle will make you appear as though you are doing something, think again. You too are to blame for allowing things to fall apart as bad as they have. You need to get in front of the issues not behind it being dragged.

  11. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    While it seems politically correct to throw the words “colonialism” and “residential schools” and “dog slaughter” at everything negative in Nunavut these days, people should talk to some of the oldest elders if your are lucky enough to still have a few around, Sexual abuse of children and women was fairly common in those days when people still lived on the land instead of communities. Men took what they wanted when they wanted. Perhaps it is simply part of the human condition and not necessarily a cultural thing. Primal?

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      For me, the word is ‘convenient,’ though it is definitely PC, and to deny it, as you seem to have done here, is heretical! So, be careful!
      As an aside, the vigour and certitude with which some white people rush to apply these tropes is truly a marvel. See ‘Bing’ above:
      “I’m white. I’ve got no skin in this game. It’s colonialism. It’s the residential schools… Any idiot can see that.”
      No ambiguity there. That’s just how it is and if you don’t agree… well you’re an idiot! (A less sophisticated way of calling out such transgressive thought). It’s best to just shirk away from such towering intellects I suppose.
      Great post, Crystal. Always enjoy your thoughts

      • Posted by Tyrion Lannister on

        Like many other exponents of alt-right twaddle, No Moniker has already refuted himself.

        The extreme sexual abuse at the Chesterfield Inlet residential school has been public domain information for 25 years. Many of those abused children went on to abuse others as adults. The Oblate priests who ran this school were paid agents of a colonial government. Even conservative historians and observers agree on that point.

        So it is demonstrably valid to state that this and other colonial actions have contributed to the sexual abuse of children in Nunavut. As Bing said, only an idiot could disagree with that.

        You’ve also erected an obvious straw man argument. (Straw man lies are common alt-right techniques.) Hardly anyone in this discussion thread has said that colonialism is the sole cause of sexual abuse in Nunavut, but your post rests on the false unspoken premise that they have said that.

        Consider yourself refuted.

        • Posted by No Moniker on

          Damning stuff, Tyrion; and ‘alt-right’ you say? Seems a little unhinged to be honest. I’d be interested to hear your case; though I suspect it is just a lazy ad hominem. The more interesting question seems to be why, in the absence of any good reason, people apply these kinds of labels to others in the first place?
          Does calling someone ‘bad’ position you above them in an imagined moral hierarchy? Maybe it justifies your avoidance of risky discussions that might uncover a poorly thought out or bad idea you have (who knows, maybe you have a lot of those)? Granted, this is just guessing.
          You say “Hardly anyone in this discussion thread has said that colonialism is the sole cause of sexual abuse in Nunavut…” That is true, “hardly anyone” has said that.
          You go on to say my “post rests on the false unspoken premise that they have said that.”
          I think we are finally getting somewhere. Could it be the problem is that you have been a bit careless in assuming the meaning of these “unspoken” things?
          I’m starting to think we may have discovered a true strawman after all.

  12. Posted by Kathleen Lanoue on

    I have worked for many years with clients on both sides of this issue. As a trained therapist and someone who consults on the subject; in my view it is a very, very, complex issue (the responses to address this) which does not change how damaging it is to anyone involved.
    I believe government needs to bring in some expertise where training can be offered through a parenting lens which can (kindly and gently) challenge some of the assumptions about who children are in this culture and what they need. This is not a criticism but in a culture that has had to be subsistence based for hundreds of years, it is not a surprise that at times children can be viewed in a manner that can position them to be victimized. Regardless of what people think, changing behavior must involve education to some degree, it is not as simple as punishing the offenders and giving those who are hurt tools to heal, it is about changing aspects of a culture that for whatever reason has enabled this behavior to be permissible or atleast hidden. And no offence meant but the RCMP is rife with abuse itself and is undergoing its own cultural issues and may NOT be well placed to lead on this critically important issue.

    • Posted by Darren on

      Thank you for your response. The anger is palpable, as it should be, in other contributors. Moving ahead with thoughtful, immediate strategies has to be the priority

      • Posted by Kathleen on

        I agree with your words Darren; Although I specifically reference a particular idea to help address this issue in my response, there are many responses that could help bring Nunavut forward through this crisis, and I do believe it is a crisis. That children are powerless is a truth, and when someone wishes to hurt someone who is powerless the conditions are right for that to happen and to continue.

        There are so many aspects of child sexual abuse that are so deeply damaging and healing is possible but when a child is hurt within a culture that does not validate how wrong it is or help those children escape the abuse, the damage is compounded. I sincerely hope this goes somewhere in a material way; everyone in Nunavut deserves to benefit from safer children and youth and, when they are safe, everyone does.

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