A year of healing and advocacy ahead for Pauktuutit
Inuit women delegates from across Canada describe the same social problems
OTTAWA — Despite efforts by government funders to steer organizations toward employment and job creation programs, delegates to Pauktuutit’s annual general meeting insist that Inuit must heal from trauma and abuse before northern societies can hope to prosper.
Pauktuutit President Rebecca Kudloo said during a break in the meeting March 13 that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to access money for Inuit specific programs for women.
“We just have to keep trying,” said Kudloo, originally from Igloolik and now living in Baker Lake.
“Healing is the main thing. We need to heal to have healthy communities. Women are getting killed at home. Children are in need of shelters. Pauktuutit, we’ve built up a reputation as a body that supports women. We make things happen.”
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada wrapped up their three-day AGM in Ottawa March 13 with regional reports, the election of new board members and the passing of 10 resolutions that will form the organization’s mandate for 2014-15.
Those resolutions commit Pauktuutit to seek funding or strategic partnerships on a wide range of initiatives including hepatitis C and suicide prevention, youth economic development, education programs around human trafficking, and finding ways for women to benefit from the growth in resource development and mining.
Also, in honour of their 30th anniversary this year, Pauktuutit hopes to create a digital archive of the studies, reports and other resources that they have produced over the past three decades.
Liberal MP Caroline Bennett, unable to attend the meeting due to travel, called in to the meeting and addressed delegates over speaker phone.
Bennett was vice-chair of the federal government’s Special Committee on Violence Against Aboriginal Women and said the report that emerged from the committee did not accurately reflect what witnesses said or wanted, namely a public inquiry into why so many aboriginal women go missing in Canada.
The MP offered her support for Pauktuutit’s efforts to seek justice for murdered or missing Inuit women in Canada.
“We can continue to draw attention to these issues in spite of the terrible report from last week,” Bennett said.
Pauktuutit’s regional reports, which delegates drafted after gathering in small groups March 13, were emotional, similar in content and sadly familiar to northerners.
Women from across Inuit Nunangat, and urban Inuit from southern Canada, talked about family breakdown resulting from addictions, violence, mental health crises, suicide, wayward youth and the lack of safe shelters.
The residential school experience continues to tear victims apart and cause untold hardships for spouses and children, they said.
Alasie Arngak, former chair of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, focused on the plight of children stuck in unsafe homes during a report from Nunavik.
“How can we help these children?” she asked in Inuktitut. “How do we give them protection? Maybe there should be a shelter for children to keep them safe and away from abusive parents.”
She said it’s obvious in the communities when a young woman becomes a victim of sexual abuse, because formerly vibrant and engaged children start to be come detached.
“We see them. They are independent. They can take care of themselves,” Arngak said. “Then slowly they close their doors to everyone. We know what is happening. It’s very difficult to know what to do to help them.”
Sarah Idlout, a young delegate from Inukjuak, said that unfortunately, these regional reports tend to be heavy on issues but light on solutions.
“We are always concerned with people who went to residential schools, people who were relocated and hunters who had their dogs slaughtered,” she said in Inuktitut.
“We have inherited the pain that was passed down. We need to heal our next generation. That is one of our big concerns.
“We talk about violence and problems, but we don’t come up with solutions. We need to concentrate on the future. What kind of prevention can we do? I don’t want to be stuck talking about the problems all the time. Please, I need help to solve them.”
The women themselves seemed to have at least part of the answer. Over and over they said healing comes from community based cultural programs where adults and children can regain their traditions and self-esteem and where they can remember what it’s like to live a healthy lifestyle.
“Over and over, the same themes came up,” said Sheila Pokiak Lumsden, the delegate for South Baffin. “Culturally appropriate initiatives are very important for our women and our families.”