Organizers behind a safe house for children in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Que., say their program will be expanding now that it's won part of the 2016 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The $700,000 prize will fund counselling services, training for counsellors as well as develop activities for families, like excursions out on the land, Mayor Hilda Snowball said.

"I'm kind of speechless," Snowball said. "This is going to help us achieve what we want to achieve as a community."  

Snowball is one of the driving members behind the Qarmaapik Family House in Kangiqsualujjuaq. It offers development programs for young parents and a safe space for children to stay during a family crisis.

​​The program began after statistics showed the community of 900 had more children in foster care than any other community in Nunavik. At one point, 27 babies, toddlers and older children had been taken from their families under Quebec's Youth Protection Act. 

Recognizing that foster care often took children away from their families and community in the North, Snowball and others developed Qarmaapik Family House to keep kids near their homes, while also working with Quebec's social services.

"We're trying to have children stay in the community," Snowball said. "We are very, very, careful about what we're doing with this project, especially considering the Youth Protection Act."

Community-first model successful 

For communities elsewhere that may be looking for something similar, Snowball says the programming has to come from within for it to be successful.

"In order for us to move forward and gain control of what we've lost in the past, we have to understand and educate ourselves," she said.

Qarmaapik family house inauguration March 7, 2016

Staff, volunteers and village officials at the inauguration of Qarmaapik Family House in March, 2016. (Northern village of Kangiqsualujjuaq)

Qarmaapik Family House, along with te(a)ch — a computer science teaching program in Nunavut — and SmartICE, a sea-ice monitoring program from Nunatsiavut, split the $1.5 million Arctic Inspiration Prize.

with files from Elyse Skura