Amid suicide crisis, Nunavut MLA wants more traditional Inuit counselling
Isaac Shooyook says there's been a lot of debate about suicide, but 'no progress has been made'
The day after finding out a grandson had died by suicide, Isaac Shooyook, the MLA for Quttiktuq, rose in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly to call for the territory to use Inuit traditional knowledge in its response to its suicide crisis.
"Here in Nunavut, we are debating solutions to suicides to see how we can improve the situation," Shooyook said in Inuktitut.
"However, no progress has been made to date."
The rate of suicide in Nunavut is 10 times higher than the Canadian average, with rates particularly elevated among young men.
Last year, the territory held a coroner's inquest into the issue of suicide and the government has pledged to implement all of its recommendations.
'Suicide is a crisis in our land'
Shooyook has been passionate about incorporating Inuit traditions and culture into territorial decision-making since his election in 2013.
Last year he walked out of the Legislature in protest, saying he was getting rote answers from the government.
"Inuit Qaujimajatuqangat has to be revived," he said on Friday. "Our society needs this."
"We cannot control a human being's life we must do what we can to help our young people avoid a dark path," he said in Inuktitut.
"We know that suicide is a crisis in our land although one suicide is too many. We have been facing a situation that is unprecedented in terms of the number of young people who have been lost to us."
Inuit knowledge needed for counselling
The suicide inquest recommended the government pilot a community-based model like that used by Clyde River's Ilisaqsivik Society in other Nunavut communities.
Ilisaqsivik's training program for Inuktitut-language counselling has received widespread recognition, but still struggles to find suitable funding.
- Inuit counsellors tackle Nunavut's biggest issues
- Award-winning Indigenous mental health programs struggle with finding funding
"I would like to see funding specific to the incorporation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit into counselling processes," said Shooyook.
He says if elders aren't included in discussions to improve government, the problems will snowball.
"Elders can be included in fixing this malaise we are in. This is becoming urgent today."
Update on suicide strategy
This summer, Nunavut MLAs approved $4.5 million in funding for its Resiliency Within suicide prevention plan.
Qirngnuq wanted to know what's happened with that funding since then.
"I've met with two different regional training sessions of community wellness workers that are tasked with bringing forward the concerns of the community level to make sure that we focus our energies to the individual community needs," he told the legislature on Thursday.
Hickes went on to say that he is "very excited" about the potential for Nunavut to apply for upcoming federal funding related to mental health and community wellness.
Last month, Hickes spoke to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs when it visited Iqaluit as part of it's study on suicide in Indigenous communities.
If you are feeling suicidal you can call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line. It is anonymous and confidential: (867) 979-3333 or (800) 265-3333. You can also call the Kids Help Phone to speak to a counsellor: 1-800-668-6868.