Elders shouldn't be sent away to die, says Fort Resolution petition

The petition, signed by 115 people, is urging the N.W.T. health minister to reopen an elders care facility in the community.

Petition requests reopening elders care facility, tabled in Legislative Assembly

Louis Balsillie stands in front of the Our Great Elders extended care facility in Fort Resolution, NT. The facility has not been taking residents for more than 10 years. (Submitted by Louis Balsillie)

Trudy King has looked after many elders in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., to avoid sending them away to other communities to die.

"My dad passed away two years ago and he made me promise that we wouldn't put him in the hospital," said King. "He wanted to die at home."

Twenty-two years earlier, King did the same thing for her mother.

King is one of 115 people in the community of about 500 who recently signed a petition, asking N.W.T. Health Minister Glen Abernethy to reopen an elders care facility that closed more than 10 years ago.

"It's so sad that we have to send our elders out of town to basically die," said King.

When an aunt became terminally ill and went to the hospital in Hay River, N.W.T., King took six weeks off work to stay with her at the hospital to be by her side.

More than 100 people signed the petition to reopen the elders care facility in Fort Resoution, shown here in this August 2017 file photo. (Mitch Wiles/CBC)

When the facility was open, elders in Fort Resolution "were cared for and loved," she said.

The facility could accommodate four elders, but it was closed because there wasn't enough money from the territory to pay for it, said Deninu Kue First Nation Chief Louis Balsillie, who started the petition. Since then, he's been lobbying for it to reopen.

"I've been approached by many elders in the community to try to get it up and running, because they're of age now and they've seen what happened to other elders," Balsillie said.

Elders are afraid that they will need care and be sent away to a facility in Hay River or Yellowknife — which are hours away — and they'll be isolated away from their family and community, he said.

"We just want our elders to come home and stay at home," Balsillie said.

Petition tabled in legislature

Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu tabled a petition in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday asking Abernethy to reopen the facility as quickly as possible.

Balsillie is not asking for a doctor or nurses — he says it can be run by a few residents that could help the elders and keep them company.

Pete King died two years ago in Fort Resolution at home with his family. His daughter Trudy said he made her promise she wouldn't put him in a hospital outside his community. (Submitted by Trudy King )

"It is sad to hear elders say that when they leave their community that they are going away to die," the petition states. "We the community members want to keep our elders here."

Robert Sayine Sr., 75, also signed the petition. He too says it's important to have a local care facility for elders, though he doesn't blame the territory for not reopening it yet, noting there's not money "falling out of the sky."

"We want our elders, our grandfathers or our dads, as they grow older, we want to see them in the community," he said. "With each community we should prioritize the most important thing."

Sayine said if something happened to him he wouldn't want to be sent away and would prefer to remain in Fort Resolution with his family.

CBC News requested an interview with Minister Abernethy, but he was not available for comment before publishing