Every child deserves a safe place to sleep and the Indigenous Kids Network of Canada (IKNC), a non-profit consisting of a team of five volunteers from across Canada, is helping fill that need in Nunavut. IKNC also assists Inuit and Indigenous families facing bureaucratic barriers access direct aid from the Government of Canada.

So far 592 beds worth $692,801.23 have been approved and sent to Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, Whale Cove, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Iglulik, Coral Harbour, Naujaat, Arviat and Pond Inlet. A figure for overall services provided by the Inuit Child First Initiative with the help of IKNC was not available.

The IKNC mainly provides support to Indigenous kids in Canada by writing letters of support to Jordan’s Principle, or through the equivalent Inuit Child First Initiative, who in turn provides assistance.

Jordan’s Principle is named after Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child of Norway House Cree Nation born in 1999 with special medical needs who died in the hospital at the age of two, while the Manitoba and Canadian Governments argued over who should pay for his home-based care. Jordan’s Principle was created to ensure parents can access these types of services.

Indigenous parents writing these letters often face barriers by the government and often have a hard time accessing services due to the requirement of Jordan’s Principle/Inuit Child First Initiative to have a health-care professional or social worker also write a letter saying assistance is needed.

“We try to streamline the process for them,” said Hyejun Kim, a board member with the Indigenous Kids Network of Canada.

“It’s not just the beds, it depends on the needs of children. So if the children need speech therapy or health-related services we can ask families to get a letter (from a professional). We can try and get those services approved for these children,” she adds.

Inuit in Nunavut often live in overcrowded housing, a fact well-known by many Nunavummiut, which makes it easier for the government to approve funding for beds.

“Most of them are very happy, very thankful. If a request gets declined if we are able to find a reason we can go back and try again. We really try to get these requests approved. As long as the needs can be verified,” said Kim.

With the onset of Covid-19, however, getting health-related services approved through Jordan’s Principle/Inuit Child first Initiative has gotten more difficult.

“There’s not enough nurses or social services professionals who are able to provide support letters, Covid has made it more difficult for the families and professionals to get the letter done,” said Kim.

To offset the burden on overwhelmed healthcare professionals the organization hopes to raise enough funding to hire funded navigator positions in communities in order to help fulfill larger group requests to ensure more can be approved in a shorter amount of time.

“We really need funding so we can help more children,” Kim adds. “As an organization we recognize there is quite a bit of barriers for Indigenous children and families to have to go through to have to access services and supports.”

The IKNC accepts donations by e-transfer which can be sent to iknc@indigenouskidsnetwork.com. Families can reach out to the IKNC by contacting its Facebook page.

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