Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic August 28, 2014 - 5:55 am

Inquiry into missing, murdered Aboriginal women must include Inuit, ITK says

ITK joins premiers in calling for inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women

LISA GREGOIRE

The president of Canada’s national Inuit organization says Inuit women must be part of any inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, even though, because of their unique and isolated circumstances, they rarely go “missing.”

On the phone from Charlottetown, P.E.I., where he is attending the annual premiers’ Council of the Federation conference, Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said Inuit women are no less victims of violence than other Aboriginal women in Canada.

But unlike troubled First Nations women, Inuit women can’t hitchhike out of town.

“We don’t have the road systems or the highways where that’s the case in a lot of southern Aboriginal communities,” Audla said.

“If that were the case, we’d probably have a lot more missing women, a lot more women who find themselves in dire straits, and that would be just to get out of a dire situation at home.

“Violence in the home is still quite prevalent in Inuit Nunangat and I feel that if we address that kind of disparity as well as addressing the social determinants as to why there would be that much violence, that our women and children have to face, then definitely, I’m in support of getting to the root of the matter.”

Despite Prime Minister Steven Harper’s opposition to a public inquiry into the estimated 1,181 Aboriginal women, by RCMP counts, who have been murdered since 1980, most of the premiers in Charlottetown, including Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, continue to press for one.

That is except Alberta Premier Dave Hancock. The Calgary Herald reported Aug. 27 that he is “not a big fan of public inquiries,” and would prefer some other means of addressing the rash of Aboriginal women who have been murdered in Canada, or gone missing.

By the end of Aug. 27, premiers and Aboriginal leaders had agreed on a “national roundtable” on the issue, to which they invited the federal government, an article in the Globe and Mail reported.

P.E.I premier Robert Ghiz also said that in addition to the roundtable, premiers still seek a full public inquiry, the Globe and Mail said.

Audla said he supports an inquiry into violence against Aboriginal women, but he said it must contain Inuit specific circumstances in its terms of reference.

While some Inuit women can go missing in urban centres such as Winnipeg, Ottawa or Montreal, most Inuit women who are victims of violence can’t even leave their own homes because they live in small, overcrowded communities where relatives have no space and there are no shelters to run to, Audla said.

Regardless of an inquiry, the culture of violence in some Nunavut homes must be addressed, Audla said, and women in smaller communities must have access to safe shelters.

Statistics Canada reported in 2013 that Nunavut’s rate of “intimate partner violence” is 13 times higher than the rate for the rest of Canada, and twice that of the Northwest Territories.

The Government of Nunavut released it’s Iliagiitsiarniq family violence strategy in March 2013 under then Premier Eva Aariak but it’s unclear whatever became of the action plan.

In May, the RCMP released an overview of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada which said there were 20 female victims of homicide in Nunavut between 1980 and 2012.

At the time, Pauktuutit noted that 70 per cent of communities across the North don’t have emergency shelters.

Audla said other issues were raised at the Charlottetown conference that were relevant to Inuit including talks on education and training.

He said he had an opportunity to discuss ways to get more Inuit into the workforce by tailoring education curricula and training initiatives.

Audla also responded to an Aug. 26 Statistics Canada report which stated only 45 per cent of Inuit reported that they were in excellent or very good health, compared to 56 per cent who said so in 2001.

“Sadly, I’m not surprised. It’s been a trend,” he said. “I see, every day, Inuit getting into habits that aren’t necessarily conducive to one’s health — smoking as an example, poor diet decisions.”

He said while there are strategies and education programs already in place to encourage Inuit to quit smoking, get active and eat healthier foods, there are sometimes barriers, including poverty and food prices.

With type 2 diabetes on the rise in the North, Inuit should try to continue hunting for and preparing country foods and those who still practice that lifestyle, should teach others.

The Auditor General of Canada is expected to release an audit of the Nutrition North food subsidy program this fall.

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