Whether in the home, in schools or interacting in the many workshops put on throughout the territory by dedicated staff and volunteers, our Elders are among the greatest treasures in society.

From them we learn more than just skills. Core values are passed on, language is preserved and grown and meaningful bonds are established between generations.

Across the Kivalliq, those bonds are being strengthened by a program that the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre and Pinnguaq are hosting in partnership with HelpAge Canada. Youth are assisting Elders in navigating the increasingly online world, building Elders’ skills with phones and tablets and sharing their own knowledge.

“We’ve all experienced the isolation and loneliness over the past couple of years,” said Nicole Perry, director of national programs with HelpAge Canada. “This is one of the most accessible ways to help combat that.”

Isolation and loneliness are common factors in many lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially for our self-sufficient older generation.

In normal times, teas and feasts would be held to keep connections strong. With pandemic restrictions, we must abide by limitations on visits to our parents and grandparents in care homes, and in some cases, our loved ones have been sent far from their communities as long-term care facilities, like the one in Iqaluit, were closed due to Covid infection spreading among staff.

One displaced Elder, Raymond Ningeocheak, was just repatriated to his family from the Embassy West care home in Ottawa after his family was concerned about the level of culturally appropriate care he was receiving.

Because the Government of Nunavut couldn’t bring him home due to doctors’ advice, the family footed the nearly $37,000 bill. The money was raised mainly through individual and business donations, paying for a chartered plane and medical equipment needed to keep the 80-year-old safely in the family’s home.

Ningeocheak returned home Feb. 21 and had maktaq, tuktu and fish as soon as he got in, said his daughter, Sarah Netser. His family will be holding a gathering for his 81st birthday on March 11. Netser said he will be staying home until he passes away.

“I’m just so thankful and grateful and relieved,” said Netser about everyone who donated.

Ningeocheak’s story is yet another example of the great need for care homes in every Nunavut community. It shouldn’t take collective will and tens of thousands of dollars in donations to make sure one person is aging safely where they and their family prefer.

Kinngait, Clyde River, Kugluktuk and Baker Lake are only a few of the communities that have spoken up and written their MLAs on the urgent need for care homes.

Most of the recently-elected MLAs made great care to highlight the need for more long-term care facilities in the territory, and a need to keep our Elders home, so they can retain their connections to the land, country food and families.

Petitions have been launched, member’s statements have been made and still we move at the snail-like pace of governance.

We hope that in this next sitting of the legislature, scheduled to begin March 7, our newly sworn-in members will have a remedy to make these dreams a reality.

Our Elders depend on it and they deserve our best efforts.

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