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Iglulik’s Arctic Fresh Projects awarded contract for Aqqusariaq treatment centre in Iqaluit

Iglulik’s Arctic Fresh Projects has been awarded the contract to build the 24-bed trauma and addictions treatment facility set to open in Iqaluit in 2025.
Arctic Fresh Projects’ general manager of construction Evan Schellenberg poses in Iqaluit, where the 24-bed Aqqusariaq trauma and addiction recovery centre is set to open in 2025. He says the facility will be “absolutely beautiful” when it’s completed. Photo courtesy of Arctic Fresh

Iglulik’s Arctic Fresh Projects has been awarded the contract to build the 24-bed trauma and addictions treatment facility set to open in Iqaluit in 2025.

“It’s something that Nunavut has needed for a long time,” said Evan Schellenberg, general manager of construction at Arctic Fresh Projects. “To be able to be a part of a project that is so needed across the territory is a humbling thing.”

The facility was formerly known as the Nunavut Recovery Centre but is now being called Aqqusariaq, which refers to a trail that must be taken to reach one’s destination. The new name was selected by the Cultural and Lived Experience Advisory Committee, Aqqusariaq development team, and industry experts from across the territory who are also developing the facility’s future programming.

Bidding for the project closed on April 6. The Government of Nunavut selected Arctic Fresh’s $65-million bid on June 22, favouring it over a $77-million bid from Pilitak Enterprises and an $89-million proposal from 5581 Nunavut Ltd.

“We’re comfortable and confident in the number we submitted,” Schellenberg said. “We believe that’s the right number for that project. I think that the government’s own cost and estimate would reinforce that as well.”

Schellenberg said Arctic Fresh Projects is unlikely to begin construction on Aqqusariaq this year due to the timing of the sealift season. However, Iqaluit-based construction company Tower Arctic will start civil work – tasks like installing water and sewage infrastructure – this summer.

Arctic Fresh Projects has also partnered with a southern contractor called Penn-Co Construction Canada, which has been beneficial in many ways, particularly in terms of training the company’s Inuit workforce.

“Through that partnership we’ve been able to grow more in the last three years than we could have on our own,” Schellenberg said. “We’ve been able to give our own Inuit employees training and on-the-job experience we would not have been able to give them solely on our own. Some of are own Inuit employees are actually well on their way to being site superintendents for major projects, which we’re very excited about.”

Arctic Fresh’s Nunavut-based workforce is a big part of the reason the company was able to submit such a low bid for Aqqusariaq, according to Schellenberg.

“The more you can build a local building by local people, the more cost effective you’ll be,” he said.

Schellenberg is confident the facility will open on schedule sometime in 2025. It will feature an “absolutely beautiful” main building, he said, and an out-building on the land.

Arctic Fresh Projects was incorporated in 2020 as an offshoot of its parent company, Arctic Fresh. The company has been busy in its first few years, building several small residential and commercial projects in Iglulik, and undertaking the new housing authority office in Sanikiluaq. It has also started work on a new women and children’s shelter in the same community, and was recently awarded the contract to renovate Coral Harbour’s Sakku School.

Aqqusariaq is among its most ambitious undertakings.

James Ayodele, director of Cambridge Bay’s Department of Healthy Living, sees progress on the Iqaluit facility as “a really good thing.”

“When I heard about the contract being awarded, I was ecstatic about it,” he said.

Ayodele’s department runs an on-the-land treatment program outside Cambridge Bay that has been lauded for its innovative approaches to addiction and recovery. He said many people who have used the program, nicknamed 28 Days on the Land, have expressed the importance of offering similar programming in Iqaluit, particularly programming that can operate year-round.

Makigiaqta Training Corporation, a subsidiary of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, is set to provide $11.8 million in funding to train Inuit counsellors to work at Aqqusariaq. However, Ayodele is concerned about the facility’s ability to maintain a full complement of staff long-term.

“Staffing is one of the major operation issues that they could run into,” he said. “I don’t mean to be a harbinger of doom, but unfortunately I see that happening. Across Nunavut, staffing has been a very major issue.”

Ayodele said he sees Aqqusariaq as a “step in the right direction,” but would ultimately like to see similar facilities built in each of Nunavut’s three regions.

“Having three facilities across the territory, which I believe is the long-term goal, will definitely be adequate.”

About the Author: Tom Taylor

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