Federal government commits to funding shelters for Inuit women

The sun sets in Aklavik, N.W.T., where there is no domestic violence shelter. The nearest shelter is in Inuvik, N.W.T., more than an hour drive over an ice road in the winter. (Kate Kyle/CBC)
The federal government is pledging to fund the construction and operations of shelters for Inuit women and children across the Inuit regions of Arctic Canada, known collectively as Inuit Nunangat, as well as in urban centres, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller announced Wednesday.

The idea to build five emergency shelters – one in each of the four regions of Inuit Nunangat and one in Ottawa, which has the largest population of urban Inuit in Canada – was championed by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada (Pauktuutit), the national Inuit women’s organization in Canada.

“This announcement addresses a glaring funding gap that has existed for many decades for Inuit women,” said in a statement Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo.

The urgent need for these shelters was at the top of the organization’s agenda during meetings with Liberal cabinet ministers last year, Kudloo said.

Inuit women face violence at a rate 14 times greater than other women in Canada and the chronic shortage of housing in Canada’s North means many of them do not have safe places to go to, according to federal statistics.

The situation has been further exacerbated by the The COVID-19 pandemic.

“Shortages in shelter space for Inuit women mean those experiencing violence and abuse at home often have no safe place to turn to when they need it,” said Minister of Northern Affairs Daniel Vandal. “There is a critical need for shelter space across Inuit Nunangat and it is essential that safe places be made available.”

‘They listened to voices of Inuit women’
Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, speaks on a panel in relation to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on January 16, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Pres)

Kudloo said the federal government “listened respectfully to the voices of Inuit women.”

“Pauktuutit looks forward to working with our Inuit Nunangat partners, as well as Inuit organizations in Ottawa, to co-develop the applications for these shelters which are so urgently needed and will no doubt save lives,” Kudloo said.

Pauktuutit was especially pleased to see the guarantee of long-term operational funding for the new shelters was also included in the announcement, she added.

“This will ensure the shelters’ stable operation for years to come and that healing and other programs — designed and delivered by Inuit, for Inuit — will be in place for women and children who need them,” Kudloo said.

Pauktuutit estimates the funding for the construction of the five shelters will be approximately $20 million, she said.

Funding for the new shelters will be part of the $724.1 million for a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy as announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement by the Trudeau government, Miller said.

“This funding is a downpayment on the investments that must be forthcoming to respect the human rights of Inuit women, including the right to safety and security of their person,” Kudloo said.

Related stories around the North:

Canada: Canadian Inuit women’s org says throne speech sent the right signals, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sámi reconciliation process gains final approval in Finland, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland extends bar, nightclub COVID-19 closures in capital area until September 27, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Are potential Arctic security threats eclipsing urgent action on climate? A new study makes its case, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia removes critical voices ahead of Arctic Council chairmanship, claims Indigenous peoples expert, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Twenty-five Indigenous Sami remains returned by museum are reburied in northern Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous communities in Alaska harder hit by COVID-19, The Associated Press

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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