'Inuit children need protection too,' says Pauktuutit president about sexual abuse

Rebecca Kudloo, the president of Canada's national Inuit women's organization, says she hopes Inuit won't be forgotten when federal leaders discuss ways to tackle the "very serious" and "ongoing" problem of childhood sexual abuse.

Rebecca Kudloo wants the government to follow through on national discussion of sexual abuse with funding

'There's a lot of denial in our communities and people don't like to talk about it,' says Rebecca Kudloo, the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada (Submitted by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada)

Healing the inter-generational wounds caused by childhood sexual assault will take time, sustained funding and Indigenous leadership, says the head of Canada's national Inuit women's organization.

Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, says she hopes Inuit won't be forgotten when Federal leaders discuss ways to tackle the "very serious" and "ongoing" issue.

"First Nations get a lot of attention from the government," she said. "Because we're few of us up here, we seem to get forgotten a lot.

"We need to say that Inuit children need protection too."

Over the past several weeks, Indigenous leaders and victims have broken the political silence on the issue. 

Kudloo says she commends people like Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, for urging the government to take action.

"There's a lot of denial in our communities and people don't like to talk about it," Kudloo said. 

"But we have to work together if we're going to protect our children so that this intergenerational abuse doesn't happen for more generations."

More support needed for children, families

Sexual abuse has been a central focus of Pauktuutit's work for many years. 

In a 2003 report, Pauktuutit analyzed the resources available for survivors of childhood sexual assault, which Kudloo says is still a large, ongoing problem for communities. 

The report called for more training for Inuit counsellors, a stronger commitment to long-term funding from the federal government and better resources in the Inuktitut language — all issues Kudloo says still need to be addressed. 

"The funding that is provided for treatment has to be ongoing," said Kudloo. "It doesn't help when we have to beg for funding every year."

Last year, Pauktuutit urged the Liberal government to restore funding for women's groups, saying the previous government failed to listen to Inuit concerns. 

"For the past two years we almost lost our funding because we were told that they're focusing on mental health," she said. "Mental health and sexual abuse or family violence — they are interconnected."

'We can do it ourselves'

Without stronger funding for survivor services, Kudloo says many of the issues facing Inuit will be compounded. 

"People turn to other sources of coping. There's high rates of suicide, alcohol usage. Those things come up because people are trying to suppress their feelings."

When outsiders travel to Northern communities for short stints of one or two years, she says issues are not properly addressed. 

"I was in that generation when we were run by another culture," said Kudloo. "You lose your sense of pride."

The best solutions, she says, come from the Inuit who are struggling with the issue. 

"With a bit of help from the government, we can do it ourselves."