Nunavik-wide conference tackles regional social problems
Delegates share what works in each community
(updated at 2 p.m.)
More than 60 Nunavimmiut representing every community in Nunavik, as well as all its major organizations, met last week in Kuujjuaq for a regional conference on prevention and empowerment, called “Inuusitta Makitjuumigiaqarniga – Strengthening our Lives,” to find ways of re-establishing wellness, safety and social peace within the troubled region.
One participant told the conference about his volunteer efforts to counsel prisoners in the South by telephone. Another talked about how her community school is trying out new ways of helping students, especially those with behaviour problems, and who are coping with issues such as hunger or turmoil at home.
That’s what conference organizers had hoped to see — a sharing of “best practices,” rather than complaints about police, health care, or youth protection services.
It was “a really good week,” said conference co-chair Lizzie Aloupa, a prevention counselor with the Kativik Regional Police Force, in an interview after the three-day gathering wrapped up Oct. 18.
“It was like we imagined it was going to be — even a little more,” Aloupa said. “What we wanted for the meeting was for people to share what is already going on in their communities, on the prevention work they’re doing.
And this what Aloupa said happened during the meeting, which took place at the Katittavik town hall.
There, participants — three from each of Nunavik’s 14 communities and two each from Makivvik Corp., the Kativik Regional Government, KRPF, Kativik School Board, Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, health centres, the courts and youth protection — heard from communities where people are already doing prevention work on their own.
These include Inukjuak, where the men’s program, Unaaq, is “a good way of reintroducing Inuit men’s ways, especially to those who have been detained,” Aloupa said.
Some participants also talked about the challenges they face in tackling problems, such as in Aupaluk, Nunavik’s smallest community, where a small number of people are left to tackle big social problems.
But the conference wasn’t just about talk: each community also came up with an action plan during the conference, which they were able to discuss with resource people at the meeting hall.
The meeting’s participants also learned more about Nunavik’s proposed “social regulation” project, which wants to restore social peace, keep adults out of jail and give children safer, healthier lives.
This project, called “reconstructing social regulation” in English (Inillatirigiatsianiq Inuuqatigiit in Inutittut), aims to restore social peace, keep adults out of jail and give children safer, healthier lives.
As its base, the plan involves the transformation of the justice system, strengthening what already exists, changing some services, and, when necessary, offering new services.
The idea is to increase efforts made to keep people out of the overloaded justice and corrections system by offering them alternatives, such as rehabilitation, along with more programs to stem the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
The plan would be aimed at offenders, abusers, victims, families and people “who have not been criminalized but are facing problems” — in short, just about everyone in Nunavik.
And it would involve leaders, concerned residents, community services and every level of government.
The ideas for change raised during the prevention and empowerment conference came from Inuit for Inuit, with Inuit delivering nearly all the presentations and discussions taking place in Inuktitut, Aloupa said.
The three-day meeting was also broadcast live on the Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio network, so Nunavimmiut could listen into the proceedings.
Aloupa’s only regret is that “we did not have enough time at the end” to hear all the speakers.
But the conference will “give more encouragement to people who are already working into their communities to make community life better,” she said.
Discussions are also likely to continue on TNI radio, Aloupa said, adding that the regional partnership committee, headed by Minnie Grey, who co-chaired the conference, will continue to work on the many ideas stemming from the conference.
That regional partnership committee formed in 2007 to tackle the region’s social problems, which came into the public eye after the investigation by Quebec’s human rights commission first revealed that the region’s social network failed to give children and youth the protection to which they are legally entitled.
At the end of the conference, the participants supported the following declaration: