Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak had some grim news to share with her colleagues in the legislative assembly on Monday.
“Since the last summer my community of Kugluktuk has lost more than a handful of people and it has had such a negative impact on the community. Just recently I lost an uncle to suicide and last summer he lost his son to suicide,” she said. “The level of despair grows and people don’t seem to know what to do about it.
She called for more government funding to support on-the-land programs as part of the solution.
“Resources like on-the-land programs have proven a positive impact and are very successful. Being on the land and getting the help from your own people is often the best,” said Kamingoak. “These programs are especially effective amongst our youth, who often don’t get to enjoy the experience of being out on the land and the strength and peace that our land brings.”
Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak echoed Kamingoak’s concerns.
“The high number of suicides is a part of our major social problems right now. Perhaps there needs to be programs and delivery services for young people and also, of course, for adults,” Keyootak said.
He said even some elders don’t want to reach out for help from government services because of the language barrier. He asked Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik whether the number of frontline workers who are bilingual Inuktitut speakers will increase.
Sheutiapik replied, “I hope so. That is our plan. It is part of the human resources employment plan and it is also our plan. When we are recruiting, we have gone as far as identifying some positions to have the requirement to be Inuk, so we are working hard to try to increase our employment. I am proud to say that 63 percent of our employees at Family Services are Inuit.”