Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic August 09, 2017 - 2:30 pm

Suicide prevention a priority, new national Inuit youth president says

“That’s my goal, to make us equal with the rest of Canada”

Inuit youth gathered in Nain, Nunatsiavut from July 31 to Aug. 4. Their new president, Ruth Kaviok of Arviat, 19, says suicide prevention will be her top priority. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NIYC)
Inuit youth gathered in Nain, Nunatsiavut from July 31 to Aug. 4. Their new president, Ruth Kaviok of Arviat, 19, says suicide prevention will be her top priority. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NIYC)

Young Inuit from across Canada have spoken: suicide prevention is the top priority for the National Inuit Youth Council, and will take precedence in new strategic planning meetings coinciding with the appointment of the group’s new board and president.

The newly-elected NIYC president, Ruth Kaviok, a 19-year-old from Arviat, said the issue holds a special place for her, since she participated in a suicide awareness walk and talent show celebrating life in her hometown last year.

Suicide prevention, as well as language and culture rights, mental health, addiction, and education were the most important issues identified by Inuit youth attending an NIYC summit in Nain, Nunatsiavut, which began July 31.

“As one of the Inuit youth who grew up [around] all these types of problems, I want to put a stop to these, day by day, one by one,” she told Nunatsiaq News by phone from Nain, alongside the outgoing NIYC president, Maatalii Okalik, on the last day of the summit Aug. 4.

“We’re [Inuit] not equal to the rest of Canada. That’s my goal, to make us equal with the rest of Canada,” Kaviok said, who was elected as NIYC president this past June.

Suicide within Nunavut was declared a crisis by Premier Peter Taptuna following a special coroner’s inquest in 2015.

Statistics from last year show no meaningful sign of improvement, with rates about 10 times higher the national average—and even higher for youth.

Nunavut’s suicide prevention group unveiled a new five-year action plan, Inuusivut Anninaqtuq, or “United for Life,” in June.

Kaviok said she expects the NIYC’s new strategic plan will be unveiled sometime in the fall.

The NIYC was founded by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s national Inuit advocacy group, in 1993, with members representing each of the four Inuit regions in Canada.

Along with participating on about 10 national and international boards, the NIYC president will also sit on the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, a new bilateral working group created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and ITK President Natan Obed last year.

“Now that this summit is almost over, I get the idea of what youth want, I’m going to promote and advocate for these rights they ask for,” Kaviok said.

The outgoing NIYC president, Maatalii Okalik, said it was important for her to attend the summit in person to support Kaviok during the transition.

She also spoke to the roughly 100 attending youth about her experiences as president during a keynote speech.

That speech focused on the need for Inuit youth to gain access to their roots and history, and its impact on personal development.

“The more Inuit youth are aware of what happened in the last three generations, the more prepared they will be to make critical decisions about their own lives in a positive way,” she said.

“There are a large number of social inequalities that Inuit face… it’s clear that our human rights are being infringed upon based on our quality of life in the country.”

Okalik said by phone she was pleased by the number of youth attending the summit who had interest or were already enrolled in nursing programs—a frontline career she identified as crucial for Inuit participation.

Okalik said her life after the presidency of NIYC will continue with a full-time job, but joked “I’m probably the youngest retired person.”

“At this time, I’m leaving all options open,” she said about her political career.

If you are in emotional distress, First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line can be reached at 1-855-242-3310. The line is free and available 24-hours a day. 

You can also reach the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line 24-hours a day at 1-867-979-3333 or, toll-free from Nunavik or Nunavut, at 1-800-265-3333.

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(5) Comments:

#1. Posted by In the real world... on August 09, 2017

Okalik said “it’s clear that our human rights are being infringed upon based on our quality of life in the country.”

The perpetual pity party will go on for generations I suppose.

Unfortunately this perspective lacks sufficient depth, to the point that it is almost laughable.

It took generations for southerners to build their society to what it is today. Inuit expect the same to be handed to them in a generation.

It doesn’t work that way sadly.

#2. Posted by Jim MacDonald on August 09, 2017

Summit after summit with suicide workshops and suicide prevention talk and goals. Why does it seem the only focus on youth is suicide? Awash in the world of the S word over and over. 

Sure studies say increase of suicide prevention promotion talk doesn’t increase it. However, if a pilot does, it’s not reported to keep other planes up in the air. 

Where is the tipping point where all talk becomes too much? 

Living in an electric connected universe: Anxiety, stress, emotional instability, cognitive diminution, suicide risk and mental disorders flare up with low risks when our latitudes and bodies connect with a geomagnetic storm, and further increase with cosmic rays. 

Maybe a different awareness grounding, you’re ok, only a passing storm.

What would change if awash in greatness? Youth are the problem solvers, positive, smart, powerful, do your thing then the negative, the always on mind controlling S word?

#3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on August 10, 2017

Despite all the summits, conferences, meetings, courses, protestations, about suicide which i have continually seen over the last several decades what we really haven’t addressed successfully is making Nunavut a happy place to live. The long list of social ills and economic depression is a breeding ground for suicide. We really need to work on making our communities happier, nurturing and resilient as a people so that suicide isn’t one of the first go to places when a person hits rough waters.

#4. Posted by Nevada Bob on August 10, 2017

Crystal Clarity is right.  Get the communities and family in line and you will see suicide fade away. Bring back the family unit where Mommy and Daddy stay together and raise their children together, stop having multiple children with multiple partners, encourage your children to get a good education, and encourage them to leave to further their education.  I have seen time and time again parents not sending children to school and telling them they would be missed too much if they went south to university/trade school.

Education is power and will give children hope for a better life, better job, better family.  Break the cycle of dysfunction and under-education.

#5. Posted by Lobie Dosser on August 14, 2017

Very good comments, everyone!
A lot of people,of all races, are making good money and benefits from
the tragedy of suicide in Nunavut,and they are unaccountable to
the communities.
It is almost like they want it to continue?

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