North

In emotional show of support, assembly motions for a 'violence-free Nunavut'

Nunavut's politicians say they want to root out anger and abuse in their communities. Cabinet Members and MLAs stood in the Legislative Assembly Thursday to support a motion by Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik, towards a violence free Nunavut. 

'We can't keep losing our sisters to violence'

Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik says the government needs to show it is working to make Nunavut safer. (Beth Brown/CBC )

Nunavut's politicians say they want to root out anger and abuse in their communities.   

Cabinet Members and MLAs stood in the Legislative Assembly Thursday to support a motion by Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik, towards a Nunavut that is "violence-free."

"I move, seconded by the honourable member of Iqaluit-Manirajak that the Legislative Assembly affirms its support for ongoing actions and measures to promote a violence free Nunavut," Sheutiapik said. 

"This kind of messaging gives people hope that we care as leaders. This is dear to me and I hope it's dear to everybody."

Her motion spoke of existing efforts in Nunavut to support victims of trauma and abuse through a Family Abuse Intervention Act, along with a chief coroner's report for the prevention of domestic violence. 

She spoke of the report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls where it called for governments to "combat the normalization of domestic violence and sexualized violence."

Support for the motion was unanimous in the house. 

Safe spaces needed

The territories have the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. Statistics Canada data from 2019 shows that according to police, young women and girls in the North are three times more likely to experience violent crimes than women in southern Canada. 

The same numbers are true for the likelihood of being victim to homicide. 

In it's recent budget, the Nunavut government put significant new money towards family violence shelters, women's safety programming and overnight safe spaces for youth in crisis. 

A motion beyond words

Sheutiapik shared her own experience losing a sister, and said she still doesn't have all the answers about that loss. She spoke of the traumatic loss of a nephew, and his wife.

It was clear other members held this motion close too. 

Minister Lorne Kusugak called himself "one of the walking wounded," adding he once had four sisters, now he has three. 

"We can't keep losing our sisters because of violence," he said.

"I would like this government to be building community halls and arenas and swimming pools and not safe shelters and jails." 

Members of the Legislative Assembly stand for a recorded vote to support a motion towards a Nunavut that is violence-free. Support was unanimous. (Beth Brown/CBC )

Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said victims of domestic abuse need practical support from their government, like the right to take time off work through paid leave. 

"As the minister of justice, I will work  to make Nunavut a place where all of us are free of violence and pain," she said. "I can attest that with family support a woman can prevail because I'm a survivor as well." 

Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakashuk says the harm touches almost everyone.   

"The trauma that we see in our communities on a daily basis, it's scary," she said.   

All genders need support

To heal, other MLAs like Pat Angnakak said Nunavummiut need mental health support. For Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, ending violence means keeping children away from it. Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk said forgiveness and support for abusers through counselling is crucial. 

Premier Joe Savikataaq called Sheutapik herself "a witness" for how to succeed through such hardship, and said the motions closeness to International Women's Day makes it all the more important. 

"The timing of this motion is perfect for us all to honour Nunavut's children, our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, and one another," he said. 

The motion was to end violence for all genders. But the members wore purple, a colour used for ending violence against women.

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