Addiction treatment centre opens in Ottawa for Ontario Inuit only

The government of Nunavut is working to create a contract so Inuit from Nunavut can access services at Mamisarvik, the only Inuit-specific addiction treatment centre in Canada.

Nunavut government hopes to work out agreement with Mamisarvik to use services

Mamisarvik is the only addiction treatment centre to offer Inuit-specific programming. It is re-opening this week in a new location in Ottawa after being closed since 2016. (Courtesy of Tungasuvvingat Inuit)

The only Inuit-specific addiction treatment facility is re-opening this week in Ottawa. Mamisarvik is run by Tungasuvvingat Inuit, a service provider for Inuit in Ontario.

Tungasuvvingat Inuit means a place where Inuit are welcome. But for now, only Inuit who live in Ontario are welcome at Mamisarvik.

The centre was open previously, but it closed in 2016 and then in 2017 because its funding ran out. Now, Mamisarvik is being funded by the Ontario government, and that funding only covers Inuit who live there.

The government of Nunavut used to have a standing agreement with Tungasuvvingat Inuit, so Mamisarvik was on a list of facilities that Inuit who live in Nunavut could go to for addiction treatment.

"Definitely what Mamisarvik offers is unique, and that's why we're very keen to have conversations around how we can sort of work through and get some client intake," says Opal McInnis, an addiction treatment specialist for the government of Nunavut's Department of Health.

Opal McInnis is a addiction treatment specialist with the government of Nunavut. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Before the government of Nunavut will make an agreement with Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the new services being offered by Mamisarvik have to be approved, says McInnis.

"We'll go and visit the facility first, just make sure that it's safe, that the program looks good, prior to referring clients to the facility so all of those sort of procedures will have to occur before we'll be ready to do some intake and referral."

The executive director of Tungasuvvingat Inuit says, as soon as the government of Nunavut is ready for Tungasuvvingat Inuit to make an offer, they will. 

"The government of Nunavut puts that out for all sorts of services," says Jason LeBlanc, "and you apply you get screened then you get on the standing list and then they choose to use or not use those vendors as basically best fit for Nunavummiut."

Although Mamisarvik is the only Inuit-specific addiction treatment centre in Canada, McInnis says the government of Nunavut has a long list of facilities to refer to clients to for out-of-territory treatment. 

She says they do include facilities in Labrador that offers on-the-land treatment, and there is now a centre in Cambridge Bay that offers that too.

Mamisarvik opens on Oct. 25, and its first residential treatment program starts in January. However, McInnis says it's unlikely that the government of Nunavut will be ready to offer Tungasuvvingat Inuit an offer by then.