We need help – now.
This was the Hamlet of Pangnirtung’s plea to four Government of Nunavut ministers May 1.
“Pangnirtung has a long history of frequent, critical and increasingly more life-threatening violent situations. Violent events in Pang have now become a daily occurrence,” stated council in a four-page document signed by Mayor Stevie Komoartok.
“Urgent financial support is now required to fund a shelter and additional services in Pangnirtung.”
The document is addressed to Minister of Family Services and Minister Responsible for Homelessness Elisapee Sheutiapik, Minister of Health and Minister Responsible for Suicide Prevention Pat Angnakak, Minister of Justice Jeannie Ehaloak, and Minister Responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation Lorne Kusugak.
Hamlet council cites RCMP statistics from 2015 to 2017 showing “an alarming increase in the need for services.”
Council has sought, but not yet received, further statistics via the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The RCMP statistics show upticks since 2015 in mischief and damage to property, assault, Mental Health Act offences, Liquor Act offences, uttering threats, disturbing the peace, and impaired operation of vehicle.
“These types of offences are reflecting areas where there are conflicts between people, and avoidance behaviours, (such as) use of alcohol – likely underlying causes (are) increased stress due to overcrowded homes, inadequate mental health services, trauma and addiction,” said council.
“Most of these incidences will likely be reduced if Pangnirtung would have an emergency shelter, better mental health services and ready access to psychological trauma and addiction treatment.”
In the plea for help, council describes a dismal situation for its most vulnerable, children and victims of domestic violence.
“Children often witness family violence and have no alternative safe place to stay. Child protective services are placing children into foster homes that are often not equipped to deal with the complex needs of these traumatized children,” says council.
“Pangnirtung has no shelter for victims of domestic violence. In emergency situations, victims seek refuge at the homes of relatives, neighbours or break into shacks where they hide from their assailants.”
The document describes a dry community overwhelmed by rampant and uncontrolled bootlegging, binge drinking, and illegal drugs which may contain crystal meth, cocaine or other substances. The result is seen in violence and paranoia. Council also cites unresolved anger and trauma.
“The lack of safe places, effective counseling, and immediate referrals to services outside of the community result in repeated and often escalating traumas and life-threatening events,” council states.
“If adequate urgency response services are not provided immediately, more and more people in Pangnirtung will be physically injured, emotionally traumatized and more lives will be lost due to violence or suicide.”
The hamlet has a list of six recommendations.
The first is adequate financial support to create, maintain and operate an emergency shelter to accommodate up to six people for 14 days.
“Funds are needed to renovate a vacant building owned by the Hamlet of Pangnirtung. Funds are also required to operate and maintain the emergency shelter. One option for the Government of Nunavut is to immediately release the old Pangnirtung Health Centre to the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, which could be renovated to accommodate a shelter and support services for vulnerable community members,” according to the letter.
Council also seeks financial support to staff the emergency shelter.
Other asks include:
– financial support to provide 24/7 basic crisis counseling and victim support services in
Pangnirtung for children, young adults, adults and elders;
– more rapid access to advanced mental health and addiction services outside of the community;
– increased capacity of front-line of social services and mental health workers, by-law enforcement and local RCMP in Pangnirtung, and local RCMP dispatch services to improve response times;
– alcohol and drug screening at Ottawa and Iqaluit airports for Pangnirtung-bound passengers and checked baggage.
Komoartok who was travelling outside the community, and unavailable for comment.
“We received the submission from the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, and have provided it to the Cabinet Committee on Quality of Life for their review. Officials from Justice, Health, Family Services and local RCMP have also indicated that they will meet in Pangnirtung with the hamlet council to discuss their concerns,” Premier Paul Quassa stated in an e-mail to Nunavut News.