Project in Nunavik, Canada recipient of $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize

Sarah May and George Kauki, the team co-leaders of the project that took home the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize on Friday. (Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

A project based in Nunavik, Quebec that will address substance abuse issues through cultural activities that affirm Inuit identity and culture was the recipient of the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize on Friday.

The project Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut, which means (“Family at the Heart of the Healing”) process in Inuktitut, will be offered out of The Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq.

“Family is the unconditional force that protects and secures us,” Mary Aitchison, part of the project committee and vice-president of the Isuarsivik board of directors, said in statement the day after the prize was announced.

“Our family accompanies us in happy times. Our family supports us in difficult times. When one member is not doing well, everyone carries the emotional burden. Our guests have been emphasizing for a long time their need and interest in participating to a healing process with their family bubble. Today, I am moved and proud to tell them that this will be possible very soon.”

The Isuarsivik centre was founded in 1994 and serves people from all communities in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec.

It offers a 42-day, culturally relevant healing program for those suffering from substance abuse issues.  The winning project will be in addition to their current programing. 

The project organizers say the prize money will help ensure the success of the initiative.

“Not only will the $1 million prize provide us with what we need to make our project happen, but the recognition that comes with being chosen by such an esteemed group of people from across the North means so much to us,” George Kauki, the co-team leader, said. 

Given to northern projects conceived by northerners 

The Arctic Inspiration Prize was founded by couple Sima Sharifi and Arnold Witzigbeen, who started the prize after immigrating to Canada and falling in love with the North.

The prize has been awarded annually since 2012 and is now funded by a charitable trust. 

Projects from communities across northern Canada are eligible as long as they are new, and can touch on anything from science to education to culture to society.

Community organizations, elders, youth or even private sector companies are eligible as long as the project is lead by a northerner and the team is made up primarily of northerners.

The goal of the prize is to make sure northern-focused projects conceived to benefit their regions can access the seed money necessary to realize their vision.

In the coming weeks, the Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut team will start meeting with hunters, seamstresses, elders and addiction counsellors to start the next steps of putting together the family program.

In addition to the $1-million prize, there were seven other laureates who received prizes ranging from $95,000 to $500,000.

The complete list is available on the Arctic Inspiration Prize website.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Mental Health in Arctic Canada – Can community programs make the difference?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: German project to house everything published in Siberian and Arctic languages to seek new funding, Eye on the Arctic

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