Facing startling statistics pertaining to violence against Inuit women, it appears that additional resources could be in the offing.
Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik requested $1 million from the GN on March 4 to aid existing family violence shelters and to put toward the planning and opening of new shelters in Pangnirtung, Baker Lake, Pond Inlet and Gjoa Haven. She’s also seeking $645,000 for five new positions to move forward with the Community Coordination for Women’s Safety Initiative.
The new shelters would mean some women aren’t forced to leave town when they’ve been assaulted or face the threat of assault, an issue that Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo raised recently.
“When women become victims of violence, they are victimized again when taken away from their communities for safety,” Kudloo stated.
During Pauktuutit’s annual general meeting in Ottawa in late February, the organization’s board, which advocates for Inuit women across Canada, met with RCMP Chief Supt. Amanda Jones, commanding officer of Nunavut’s V Division. Among the topics discussed was the potential to form a working group to reduce gender-based violence. A 112-page report that Pauktuutit released in January contains a multitude of recommendations to counteract the overwhelming number of violent transgressions – a rate 13 times higher for Inuit women than for women in the rest of Canada, according to the report.
Also on March 4, Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak asked for additional funding for six more RCMP officers – four in Iqaluit, one in Pangnirtung and one in Cape Dorset.
Having additional police officers would be welcome news for Jones. Pauktuutit’s report – titled Addressing Gendered Violence against Inuit Women: A review of police policies and practices in Inuit Nunangat – levels numerous criticisms against the RCMP, including slow response times.
Nunavut has 12 two-officer detachments, which Jones acknowledged is problematic.
“That’s not sufficient. That’s putting the members at risk and putting the communities at risk,” she said. “Funding in the GN, in Nunavut itself, it’s a very expensive territory. Everything you do costs money and there’s a lot of pressures on the government to fund especially health care… everyone’s under-resourced and needs funding.”
Although more Mounties on staff would make a difference, it’s only one part of a much larger picture when it comes to domestic violence, Jones said.
“It’s a big problem, right? It’s not just a police issue, it’s a social issue, it’s a lack of resources up in the communities. It’s housing issues, a lack of funding and money for individuals, and a lot of trauma,” she said.
Jones said new family violence shelters would be of great benefit.
“It’s a frustration for a lot of our members, they feel they have nowhere to direct the client to, a safer environment,” she said. “Our members feel sometimes that they’re very alone to try and solve the issues.”
Iqaluit Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone praised the Department of Family Services for its plans to establish new family violence and homeless shelters. He also voiced support for a motion calling for a violence-free Nunavut, which passed unanimously.
“We must all speak out to oppose abuse and violence,” Arreak-Lightstone said in the legislative assembly. “I commit to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I commit to stand up where everyone, every vulnerable individual. I commit to doing so in this Assembly, in public, as well as in private. I encourage my community to talk about these issues that must no longer go unspoken. It takes an entire community to work together to make changes.”
Pauktuutit’s report, co-written by a sociology and criminology professor at the University of Manitoba, involved interviews with 45 Inuit women and 40 service providers, including police officers, in the four regions of Inuit Nunagat. Among the issues raised were some Inuit’s fear and distrust of police; racialized policing practices and, in some instances, the normalization of gendered violence against Inuit women.
There’s a recommendation for RCMP to get a better historical understanding of the plight of the Inuit and to become more familiar with their culture.
Jones noted that two-weeks of training scheduled for April will include cultural, historical and language training for officers, offered by Pirurvik Centre. There will also be a mental health component.
“So our members get a better understanding of the challenges and the trauma and the mental health issues that are being addressed up here,” she said.
Existing Nunavut family violence shelters and safe homes
Cambridge Bay – St. Michael’s Crisis Shelter
Iqaluit – Qimaavik Shelter
Kugaaruk – Family Violence Centre
Kugluktuk – Women’s Crises Centre
Rankin Inlet – Kataujaq Society Shelter
Pond Inlet – Two safe homes
Iglulik – one safe home
Arviat – one safe home
Source: Department of Family Services