On the shores of a still-frozen lake, in front of a traditional Inuit settlement where spring snow melts snow underfoot, the governor-general met eight women who reconnected with their Inuit roots as they tried to recover from their addiction.
Mary Simon wiped away the tears as she listened to what her visit on Monday meant for the participants and leaders of the Isoarsivik Rehabilitation Center in Kuuju.
“We have to recognize our history, our traumas. But we also need to focus a lot on our strengths, ”said Mary Itchison, vice president of Isuarsivik.
“You did it, you show it to us, you model it, you model so much who we are, who we strive to be.”
Isuarsivik was founded in 1994 as a community organization focused on drug treatment. However, in the early 2000s, due to funding problems, the program was closed for several years due to lack of success.
“We started looking at our plan and realized we were using the Minnesota model, which is great, 12 steps,” said board chairman David Forrest.
“But we must not focus on the essence, we must focus on the soul, the trauma.”
He said that while the program was being redesigned, Simon had told him that well-designed programs from the South did not meet the needs of the Inuit.
“He said it’s time for us to create our own program.”
Inuit by Inuit
This led to the creation of the first Inuit-specific trauma program, “designed for the Inuit,” which developed awareness of intergenerational trauma as a major cause of addiction.
Isuarsivik runs nine-week programs using a harm-reduction approach tailored to each individual.
“I can say those words, ‘I need help,'” said Simon.
“From experience, if you can not love yourself or do not love yourself as an individual, then you can not love others.”
Many of the people who had lunch with the governor-general on Monday have their own experience of asking for help, including George Cowkey.
“There is so much that sobriety has changed in my life,” he said.
Kauki started working for Iuarsivik about seven years ago when he was sober for five years and is now the project land coordinator. He said it was helpful to be in an environment where people encouraged his sobriety.
“Soil is my therapy. “We do not have many consultants from where we are from the north, it is not like in the south where you can go and make an appointment with a consultant,” he said.
“When I need therapy, I just run away from the country I’m going to, do my job, it helps me live, one day, I think.”
It is something he is trying to share with others now in his role, guiding others on their journey of sobriety, helping them to catch, to catch, to reunite with the land.
Yuarsivik acknowledges the role of colonialism in assimilating the culture of the Inuit into the trauma that many people in Nunavik face today.
It is also working to expand. Construction is underway on a new center that will allow inpatient programs to increase from 9 people to 32, and allow entire families to participate in treatment so that partners and children can support their loved ones.
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