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Women’s shelters enter a new era

After a tumultuous year, YWCA Agvvik Nunavut has completed its reboot with a new board of directors elected March 22 at the organization's annual general meeting.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut, which runs the Qimaavik and Sivummut shelters, has a new board of directors elected March 22 at the organization's annual general meeting. From left: vice-president Tony Canny, president Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, board  member Lucy Wilson and treasurer Debbie Lyng. Absent from the photo are new secretary Hilary Burns and Bernadine Rogers.

Agvvik is the volunteer organization that runs the two women's shelters in Iqaluit. Qimaavik is a 26-bed shelter for women fleeing domestic violence, and Sivummut is a 12-bed shelter for women facing homelessness. Both provide shelter for the children of these women.

"This past year has been particularly challenging, but I am pleased to report that we are ready to move forward with a new and effective board in the aftermath of the financial scandal involving our terminated executive director," said outgoing president Heather Daley.

The new board is comprised of president Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, vice-president Tony Canny, treasurer Debbie Lyng, secretary Hilary Burns, along with regular members Lucy Wilson and Bernadine Rogers.

Terminated executive director Suny Jacob left behind an organization marred by logistical and financial chaos that continues to be investigated by officials.

Daley and outgoing treasurer Nalini Vaddapalli will remain available to the new directors for a seamless transition.

"YWCA Agvvik has submitted a comprehensive workplan to the (Government of Nunavut) to address the forensic audit report. This will be implemented and monitored throughout 2018," said Daley. "This will free up YWCA Agvvik staff to focus on providing front-line shelter services, information, and referral and crisis intervention for women."

Daley went on to explain that since May 2017, Agvvik has improved financial controls, operational policies and practices, improved its relationship with the Department of Family Services, and hired professionals, including a new bookkeeper, to support its work. YWCA Canada is providing support and training for the new board.

"The board hired new management, acting executive director Dianne Rogers, who will be in place until August. She has reorganized the shelters, overseen renovations at Sivummut House and ensured the women are safe and secure," said Daley.

Rogers provided her own report to the dozen in attendance at the meeting, outlining the work accomplished over the previous nine months.

"We are celebrating a complex and ongoing recovery this evening even though there is still a lot of hard work ahead to refine systems and keep them on track in a sustainable way," said Rogers.

"We are building an excellent team to continue to tackle the revival of Qimaavik and Sivummut."

Rogers noted that shelter director Jeannie Bishop is working to ensure Qimaavik provides a culturally relevant, strength-based and trauma-informed environment.

"I would also like to recognize Napatchie Lyta, our acting programming coordinator, who has deep connections within the Inuit community. The minute she joined the team she began work in earnest by providing programming and supports and outreaching to other service providers, especially those with traditional knowledge, as well as those providing both skill-building and recreational opportunities for women and children residing at the shelters."

Rogers outlined the extensive reorganization process, the comprehensive programming being offered, the staff training now in place, currently-funded projects, as well as proposals for new projects.

Finally she said the organization continues to advocate for second-stage housing "for the most vulnerable women and children in Canada."

"Did you know that Nunavut is the only province or territory that does not provide second-stage housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence?" Rogers asked.

"Without second-stage housing, hope is lost. Without the stability of housing, it is extremely unlikely that women caught in the cycle of violence will be able to find safety, dignity and peace of mind to raise their children … These are women who want to walk in their communities free from fear and to be able to dream again."

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut's resident elder Ida Atagoyuk lights the qulliq at the organization's annual general meeting March 22. She spoke about the improvement at the shelters over the past year.

Ida Atagoyuk, Agvvik's resident elder, expressed her appreciation for the changes she's seen taking place.