Nunavut must do more to reduce violence against women, MLA says
GN stands pat on its non-support of a national MMIW inquiry
Though the Government of Nunavut doesn’t support a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women, MLAs who attended a national roundtable on the issue, Feb. 27, said the territory needs to do more to protect women and children from violence.
“The statistics regarding missing and murdered women across Canada are shocking and heart-wrenching,” Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, said in Nunavut’s legislative assembly, March 3.
“However Mr. Speaker, it is clear to me that these numbers do not stand alone. Women can face a number of issues and circumstances that put them at risk in the first place,” the regular MLA said in her member’s statement.
Angnakak attended the Feb. 27 national roundtable in Ottawa with Jeannie Ugyuk, the Nunavut minister of family services and minister responsible for the status of women.
“In Nunavut, socio-economic factors such as poverty and food insecurity as well as overcrowding due to the lack of adequate housing all put significant pressures and stress on our residents,” Angnakak said.
“This stress can easily lead to aggravation and violence in the home. As we are all aware, our communities are remote and isolated.”
The non-cabinet MLA pointed out that only five of Nunavut’s 25 communities have “family violence shelters, while another six communities have safe houses.”
Angnakak’s own Niaqunnguu constituency contains Iqaluit’s Qimaavik shelter for battered women.
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut runs the shelter, as well as Iqaluit’s shelter for homeless women and children.
“The majority of Nunavut’s communities have no place where vulnerable women and children can escape from violence,” she said.
Moreover, a lack of mental health care and high rates of substance abuse also contribute to the cycle of abuse, she said.
“It is clear that women who face such overwhelming issues as addiction, poor mental health, poverty and homelessness are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society,” Angnakak said.
“I urge our government to make an effort to address violence against women from a more holistic perspective,” she said, “and to take into account the many issues and factors that can lead to a woman becoming a victim of violence, or worse, a more tragic statistic.”
Ugyuk later said she agrees with Agnakak’s statement, adding that she and fellow ministers know communities need more resources to prevent family violence.
The minister said the GN is in talks with the federal government to get more funding for such resources.
Tununiq MLA Joe Enook pressed Ugyuk to specify exactly what those resources are.
Enook recalled that Ugyuk made reference to “a framework to end violence” in the legislative assembly on March 2.
“How are you going to provide these services?” he asked. “What is going to be the basis, or the framework?”
Ugyuk replied that the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council may be involved in a contract to provide added services “perhaps at the end of March.”
The minister said earlier that the territorial government does not support a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women because “there are no actual searches taking place within Nunavut” for missing women, and “no agreement right now by the federal government” to take on such an inquiry.
But Enook held firm to his view that the government should support a national inquiry.
“I am quite happy that in Nunavut, we are not seeking or looking for missing women,” he told Ugyuk during question period.
“But there are many women who are lost, who have been murdered. Even if they are not in Nunavut, they are still part of our country. This is part of our country, Canada — and I don’t want them to be forgotten.”