The Inuit Action Plan, released June 3, is a roadmap developed by Pauktuutit: Inuit Women of Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) for ending violence against women, girls and gender-diverse people.
As Inuit women experience the highest violence rates in Canada at 14 times the national average, Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit, is happy to see it finally being released.
“I’m happy that it finally happened, it was a couple years delayed partly due to COVID, but I think our Inuit Working Group has been working really hard to make sure that Inuit priorities are brought forward.”
One thing Pauktuutit has been working on are more safe shelters for women in Inuit communities.
“As Inuit, we are distant from other aboriginal people,” she said, “we lack so many of the resources that other Canadians have. Inuit communities don’t have safe shelters for women when we have the highest rates of violence in the country.
“They’re in a small isolated community. You can’t drive out of the community – the only way is to fly out – but where do you go, another community that has no housing?”
The document is organized into 14 themes, among them Health and Wellness, Governance, Infrastructure, Family Violence and 10 others. Much of it surrounds domestic abuse and resources for those suffering from the ramifications of family and intimate partner violence.
Kudloo is no stranger to these issues, saying Pauktuutit alone has been working on these issues for over 35 years. She also sits on the ITK board with other Inuit land claims organizations.
The discovery of 215 bodies at the Kamloops Indian Residential School has brought into the spotlight many of these issues, she said.
“I think what happened (the other) week has opened some eyes on how terrible it was for aboriginal children to go to residential schools.”
“I for one am a residential school survivor,” she said, saying the event has triggered past memories of what they have gone through as Indigenous people, “for years, too, there has been unresolved grief about what happened to us.”
She says Inuit have to take a holistic approach to healing the traumas and behaviours, many of which stem from residential schools.
“As Inuit we have to start our own healing, but if there’s no resources sometimes people can’t really go forward with any help in that area.”
Kudloo says resources and Inuit counsellors need to be made available “In order to start healing … especially community-based counselling, I think works. We have one in Baker Lake that we’ve been running for 35 years in all areas of counselling and all areas of family violence.”
Co-operation between Inuit organizations, the territorial and federal governments Kudloo says is the key to making the National Inuit Action Plan work.
“If we don’t do that nothing’s going to change. We especially want Inuit women to be a part of the monitoring and implementation of the action plan. We want to be at all tables when it comes to what to do with Inuit,” Kudloo said.
“We all have to be committed to make this work, the government and us communities to work together to deal with the root causes.”
On June 4 Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) affirmed the National Inuit Action Plan released by Pauktuutit and ITK.
“Inuit women, children and gender diverse (people) deserve to live fulfilling, healthy and safe lives,” said president of NTI Aluki Kotierk. “The work of the National Inuit Action Plan is urgent and I commit to doing everything I can.”
Higher rates of domestic violence, lack of access to in-territory midwives, and many other factors going against Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse peoples mean there is a lot of work to do. Despite everything, Kudloo is hopeful.
“I have hope things will change, if I didn’t have hope I wouldn’t be here.”