‘The land’s my counselor’: $1M Arctic Inspiration Prize to help fund land-based healing in Nunavik 

Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre to host families in 2023.

At this year’s Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony, the Nunavik-based Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre received a $1 million prize for a new program, called “Family at the heart of the healing process.”

The program is set to run out of Isuarsivik’s new healing centre which is slated to be completed next year.

With 32 beds and childcare services, the new centre will allow partners and children of clients to stay at Isuarsivik as well, and accompany them along their healing journey.

“Often there’s a worry when an individual comes alone that when they go back to the family, they’ll get stuck in the substance abuse cycle again, but having them come, all of them at the same time, I think will give them a lot of support within the family and more understanding,” said Sarah May, one of the team leads of the project.

Since 1994, Isuarsivik has been providing addictions recovery care through clinical practices and Inuit teachings.

They serve the 13,000 mainly Inuit inhabitants of the vast Nunavik region in northern Quebec at no cost to the clients.

But the centre is located in Kuujjuaq, so clients frequently have to travel hundreds of kilometers from one of the other 13 fly-in communities to attend Isuarsivik, which team lead George Kauki said makes recovery more difficult.

“I’ve been working here for six years and I see first-hand the heartbreak when they have to leave family members behind to come into treatment,” he said.

Kauki explained the Inuktitut name for the program.

“Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqtigiinirq ilusqusivuttigut means being a family, being able to express yourself as a family, through culture, with culture.”

land-based healing
Isuarsivik’s new healing centre which is slated to be completed next year. Photo courtesy: Isuarsivik.

Kauki says Inuit are still recovering from post-colonial trauma.

According to a 2021 study from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Nunavik had the highest prevalence of alcohol consumption of the four Inuit regions in Canada between 2012 and 2017.

“There’s a lot of trauma passed down through generations to generations and it’s very apparent, it affects us all. And we really think that with where we are today, this is the way to go,” said May.

The new center’s construction is estimated at $40.5 million, receiving $27 million from the federal government and $8.5 million from Quebec along with money from regional sources.

The additional million from the Arctic Inspiration prize will go towards expanding land therapy services. This camping excursions and on-the-land counselling and more extended stays on the land.

May said that while current guests enjoy going out on the territory, they often find their stays are too short.

“We always get really nice feedback when we come back, the guests always say ‘Oh, we wish we would’ve stayed longer,’ so that’s really where it’s coming from,” she told APTN News.

May and Kauki have both benefitted from land therapy in their own healing journeys.

“It helps Inuit to feel more connected to the land and where they come from and I think to help them feel more grounded in the healing process,” said May.

“I’m on the land all the time. That helps keep me sober. If I didn’t have the land, I don’t know what I’d… The land’s my counselor, I guess,” said Kauki.

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