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Spanking is part of Inuit tradition, Nunavut MLA says

Spanking is a part of Inuit tradition, according to Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook who spoke as a member of the Inuit traditional values committee, which made its first ever appearance before Nunavut MLAs Wednesday.

Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook wants Nunavut government to look into what's allowed

Wednesday's hearing in the Nunavut legislative assembly was the first time the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Katimajiit, or Inuit traditional values, committee has appeared before MLAs since it was created in 2003. (CBC)

Spanking is a part of Inuit tradition, according to Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook, and he wants the Nunavut Government to seriously consider Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or Inuit traditional knowledge, when it comes to parenting.

Shooyook made his comments Wednesday at a standing committee hearing with members of the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Katimajiit, or Inuit traditional values committee, telling MLAs about their work. The committee is made up of elders throughout the territory who advise the government on how traditional knowledge could be applied to policy. It was the committee's first appearance before MLAs since it was created in 2003.

Shooyook said, in Inuktitut, that in the past Inuit parents use to correct their children by talking to them, and then spanking them if they did something wrong. The goal, he said, was to create a fear of consequences. He went on to explain parents would not use spanking too much because they did not want children to become angry inside.

If parents try to discipline children now by spanking them, Shooyook said, Family Services will remove them from the home.

Canadian law does allow parents to spank their children but with limits. Only children between the ages of two and twelve can be spanked, they can not be disciplined with an object, and they cannot be hit on the head.

Committee chair George Hickes said spanking children is a very difficult topic and it can be hard to differentiate between abuse and discipline.

The issue is just one example of the challenges the Nunavut government faces when trying to create a modern government founded on Inuit culture — something the committee was meant to aid in.

"Just like anybody else in this great country of ours, I'm a proud Canadian," said Tununiq MLA Joe Enook, "and I live by the laws of Canada. And those laws are laws first, Canadian laws, whether we're yellow, black, white, brown, we have to live by."

"So I think there are some situations where there might be perceived conflicts between IQ and the laws that we're expected to live by. How you deal with them is the question."

Yesterday's hearing was in part to discuss the summary reports from the Inuit Qaujimatuqangit Katimajiit. The two reports cover six years — from 2009-2012 and 2013-2015. They offer a total of 34 recommendations.

But MLAs heard yesterday that only one department responded to a single recommendation.

Enook said he is surprised there was not a greater response from government.

"Which will lead me and my colleagues, I presume, to ask some questions like where are these recommendations and what are the roadblocks this time? So we'll get to the bottom of the recommendations eventually."

Enook says in some ways he is not surprised by the government's lack of response because he wonders how seriously it takes Inuit traditional knowledge.

Shooyook, in starting the discussion on spanking, also acknowledged that times have changed.

"Today there's alcohol, drugs and gambling," he said, "and many other activities that were never around."

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