A new centre in Nunavut to treat trauma and addictions | Polarjournal
Named Aqqusariaq, an Inuktitut term that describes a path one takes to reach destination, the new trauma and addiction treatment centre is intended to symbolize a journey of recovery. Image: Screenshot Destination Nunavut / YouTube.

Nunavut breaks ground on new trauma and addiction treatment centre. Located in Iqaluit and designed by Inuit, it will provide therapies based on Inuit culture.

The future trauma and addiction treatment centre ground was inaugurated on 14 August in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The facility construction is expected to begin this fall and extend through December 2025. The centre will be located near the Arctic Winter Games Arena in southeast Iqaluit. It will include 24 beds providing care and treatment for drug and alcohol addicts, including pregnant women in order to prevent foetal alcohol syndrome disorders.

To a total cost of $C 83.7 million (€ 57 million), the project will be financed by the governments of Canada and Nunavut for $C 42.1 million and $C 41.6 million respectively. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI), the organism responsible for the legal representation of Inuit in Nunavut, will provide $C5 million to cover all project costs and $C11.8 million over five years to train Inuit counsellors through the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation. Finally, the centre operating costs will be covered by the Indigenous Services Canada with a  $C9.7 million funding per year.

The future centre will be located near the Arctic Winter Games Arena in southeast Iqaluit. The facility should be completed by the end of 2025. Image: ADialla, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A historic investment that responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #21 calling on the federal government to provide sustainable funding to existing and new Indigenous healing centres. As mentioned in the press release issued by the Government of Nunavut, the goal is to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm caused by residential schools, with Nunavut as a priority. “With Aqqusariaq, Inuit will have a new opportunity to heal from the impact of residential schools and intergenerational trauma by regaining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.”, says Paul Irngaut, NTI vice-president. “With access to land and Elders, our healthy food and clinical services in inuktitut, Aqqusariaq will have the power to improve the lives of Inuit for generations to come. After years of planning, today marks an important milestone in the establishment of healing programs and services designed by and for Inuit. »

This centre responds to a real need for support and healing structures for the Inuit of Nunavut who, until now, had to go to facilities located outside the territory, which do not offer support in Inuktitut or take into account Inuit culture and ways of healing. Faced with these obstacles, many gave up going to the south and were taken in charge by their families.

With Aqqusariaq, Nunavut has a centre geographically and culturally close. Thus, the program will emphasize cultural interventions and programs in addition to clinical therapies and counselling sessions: “This partnership and the construction of Aqqusariaq will promote culturally appropriate approaches to care and improve the treatment options that are closer to home, Inuit-led and trauma-informed.”, says John Main, Nunavut’s Minister of Health.

The qulliq has long brought warmth and light to Arctic populations. Composed of a soapstone and animal oil (seal or whale), it was often associated with women. Its practical use has been lost but it remains a strong symbol of Inuit culture. A qulliq is also featured on the coat of arms of Nunavut. Image: Tungasuvvingat Inuit/Facebook.

In 2018, a group of experts met to identify the needs and resources of such a centre. Among the projects to be implemented were wilderness activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as cultural skills activities and lessons including learning Inuktitut, processing skins, sewing traditional clothing, ignition of qulliq or traditional medicine. Inuit History and the history of colonization in the Arctic and its repercussions should also be taught there. Necessary steps to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

During the 19th century, the Inuit experienced rapid and brutal colonization. Forced sedentarisation and relocation, evangelization, residential schools, sanatoriums, acculturation and cultural prohibitions (as speaking Native language or practicing rites) have left deep wounds within Inuit communities in Canada as they continue to struggle with the consequences. Family and social structures disintegration, poor housing conditions, lack of infrastructure, violence or mass unemployment have pushed many Nunavummiut into the consumption of alcohol or drugs consumption.

The centre treatments and therapies will be accessible in inuktitut and provided by trained Inuit staff. Eliminating the language barrier, abolishing distance and ensuring culturally relevant therapies should thus allow more equal access to health and care for more than 250 Nunavummiut per year.

Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal

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