A provincial law passed in 2012 is restricting access to Inuit intervention workers who could help curb the number of social problems in Nunavik says the executive director of health services.
“We are not attracting and recruiting and retaining Inuit very well within our sector because we are so limited by the restrictions,” said Minnie Grey, executive director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS).
According Grey’s testimony one of the biggest restrictions is Bill 21.
After coming into force in 2012, the provincial law emphasizes strict education and training criteria for mental health workers.
But it fails to recognize cultural and language skills that Grey says are essential for helping Inuit.
“If you are not a part of an [professional] order and do not have the degree like most of our Inuit workers are, you cannot give or do specific acts or services,” Grey told APTN News.
Health and social services, and the lack thereof, was the focus of day three of the Quebec Inquiry into the relations between Indigenous Peoples and Certain Public Services hearings in Kuujjuaq, Quebec.
The topic is particularly relevant after a wave of suicides in the region.
In Puvirnituq, Que. alone, the community of less than 1,800 has had eleven people take their own lives since January of this year.
“I was trying to think of, why are we doing this? Of course the answers will be very complex, but I know one of the reasons many of our young people are becoming hopeless is because many of them are victims of sexual abuse,” testified former Kuujjuaq mayor Tunu Napartuk on Monday.
Napartuk went on to say that his biggest regret during his time in office was not addressing what he says is the taboo subject of sexual abuse.
“Our resources from health and social services need to be more established so we can provide better support to the victims of sexual abuse,” testified Napartuk.
Parts of Wednesday’s testimony responded to some of Napartuk’s concerns.
As part of a combined suicide prevention strategy, a committee of Nunavik organizations is working on getting a fly in sexual abuse intervention team off the ground.
But before they can do that there are hurdles to clear that involve the provincial government and bill 21.
Nunavik has a drop out rate of 74 per cent.
Those who want to get a higher education must go south.
As a result, non-Inuit who don’t speak Inuktitut, and are more expensive due to travel costs, keep getting hired instead.
But according to Grey, there is optimism that change is coming.
Quebec is working on a new health bill, and she’s confident that they’ll be able to push for compromise.
“We’re hoping that within the bill that we can address these issues, where you have to recognize an Inuk’s ability to give services, not just because they have a degree,” said Grey, who added delays are frustrating.
Statistics show that Nunavik is currently the only Inuit region whose suicide rates have risen over the last four years.
“We are in 2018, and we are still sending our people away from their homes and families to get the proper care.”
Quebec Inquiry hearings continue in Kuujjuaq until Friday.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts you can call:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service-1-833-456-4566
Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line for Inuktitut speakers (7pm to midnight eastern time) 1-800-265-3333