Nunavut recovery centre breaks ground in Iqaluit

Politicians pose at the “tundra turning of the Nunavut Recovery Centre on Monday in Iqaluit. From left to right: Nunavut Family Services Minister Margaret Nakashuk, Nunavut Health Minister John Main, Federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc Vice-President Paul Irngaut, Nunavut MP Lori Idlout and Nunavut Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie. (Emma Tranter/CBC)

By Emma Tranter · CBC News 

Construction set to begin this fall on long-awaited centre

The first addictions and trauma treatment centre in Nunavut is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Leaders from various levels of government came out for a “tundra turning” to mark the occasion in Iqaluit on Monday.

“Today is a big day. Today is a huge step towards more culturally-safe and comprehensive mental health and addictions services for Nunavummiut,” said Nunavut Health Minister John Main.

The treatment and recovery centre will cost a total of $83.7 million, with $42 million from the Government of Canada and $41.6 million from the Government of Nunavut.

Indigenous Services Canada will provide $9.7 million per year in annual funding to operate the centre.

The centre will be called Aqqusariaq, which means “a trail you go through to reach your destination,” in Inuktitut, which is symbolic of a recovery journey, according to the Government of Nunavut.

“Aqqursariaq will be home to a comprehensive, culturally-sensitive and holistic approach to break the cycle of addiction and promote recovery,” Main said.

It was also the first visit to Nunavut for federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, who took part in Monday’s announcement.

“People cannot get better without help. It’s very rare that people can recover without some form of help,” Hajdu said.

“A special place” to heal

Hajdu described Aqqusariaq as “a special place” that will help to heal people from across Nunavut.

“It will be a place that is designed by Inuit, for Inuit. A place where people can come and feel safe in the knowledge that they can health in a way that is familiar to them,” she said.

The federal and territorial governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. first signed an agreement to build the centre in 2019.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. vice president Paul Irngaut said Inuit have called for a treatment centre for years.

“Without a treatment centre in the territory, many Inuit have had to support their family members, neighbours and co-workers.”

Earlier this year, Arctic Fresh Projects Ltd. based in Igloolik was awarded the contract to build the centre for $65 million.

Mock-ups of the new Nunavut Recovery Centre, Aqqusariaq. (Carl-Eric Cardinal/CBC )

When asked about the increased price tag for project, Main cited “inflationary pressures” and “cost overruns.”

“We are taking on more of the cost of the project than we had initially planned,” Main said.

Main added that the GN has put in further funding requests to the federal government for the centre but is not sure yet what will be allocated.

“At the end of the day, the project is going to get built,” he said.

The centre is expected to be mostly complete by 2025, according to the Government of Nunavut.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. contributed $5 million to the project and another $11.8 million through the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. to train Inuit counsellors to work at the centre.

In addition to in-patient care, Aqqusariaq will also have on-the-land programming, family programming and a daycare.

It will be built across from Iqaluit’s Arctic Winter Games arena.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Igloolik company gets Nunavut Recovery Centre contract, The Canadian Press

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