Pangnirtung, Nunavut will soon have a new wellness centre

Delia Young, left, and Mary Etuangat are excited about filling a huge need in their community with a new wellness centre. (Matisse Harvey/CBC)

Pangnirtung’s first wellness centre is getting ready to open its doors this month after three years in the making.

The group behind it found there was limited space in the hamlet for community gatherings, such as sealskin making or preschool programming. Their goal was to to have a facility that any of Pangnirtung’s 1,600 residents can use both in the day and evening.

“Once the idea came, it took a lot of planning and finding locations…. And then to make it more successful and useful, we did two radio shows for the community asking what kind of programs … the community need in regards to wellness or programming that the community wants to do,” said Mary Etuangat, co-founder of the upcoming wellness centre, and co-chair of the Suputiit Wellness Committee in the hamlet.

“After doing that consultation, it just made it a lot stronger for the wellness community to put into a case to the Department of Health and hamlet council to initiate and find the facility [and] start renovating.”

Pangnirtung’s new wellness centre undergoes renovations in August. (Matisse Harvey/CBC)

They decided on a former radio station in the centre of the community, inspired by a centre in Qikiqtarjuaq.

“When we thought about needing a building, needing a place to do programming, and then I had heard about the wellness centre … we thought, ‘Why don’t we do that? Maybe we can do that here too in Pangnirtung,'” said Delia Young, a hamlet councillor and co-founder of the upcoming wellness centre.

Complimentary services

The Suputiit Wellness Committee — funded by the Department of Health — has traditionally been tasked with the community’s wellness, mental health, preschool, prenatal, and food programs. They have secured an annual $365,000 budget over the next five years to support the new centre’s initiatives.

Hamlet Mayor Eric Lawlor says he is looking forward to more youth programming, which he says has been needed since the community’s youth centre closed years ago of lack of funding. He thinks it’s a much needed community space, and said the hamlet is looking to upgrade some other facilities to add even more capacity.

Courtney Cox, executive director of Sailivik Drop-In Centre in Pangnirtung, says the programs at the wellness centre will be complementary to ones she helps oversee, as well as the Nunavut Recovery Centre being built in Iqaluit. The Sailivik centre opened in 2020, and offers everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to prenatal nutrition and women’s sewing. It also provides a safe and sober place for families, and even has a kids movie night.

A women’s sewing circle sits in the Sailivik Drop-In Centre.
The Sailivik Drop-In Centre hosts a women’s sewing circle. (Matisse Harvey/CBC)

“I think we are filling a gap in the community. There’s one night someone could come because their home was not safe,” said Cox. “The next night a man could come because he has nowhere to stay for that night. Like every night we could be filling a different need in the community. So it’s like a multipurpose building.”

Cox says it can get really busy at the centre — with up to 400 people walking through their doors each month — and so the wellness centre can help and take over some of its programs so there is more space for other initiatives, like a treatment camp outside of the community. She hopes the Nunavut Recovery Centre will also be able to provide counselling, among other things, when it comes online in 2025.

“We can start here, plant the seed and they can go for further services,” said Cox. “It’s needed in every community.”

The Sailivik Drop-In Centre in Pangnirtung opened in December 2020. (Matisse Harvey/CBC)

-Written by Rachel Maclean with files from Matisse Harvey

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: ‘It gives people a purpose’: This Inuit wellness project just won a $1M prize, CBC News

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