Original article on Nunatsiaq News

KUUJJUAQ—The group representing Inuit women in Nunavik is encouraging families to register to take part in upcoming national hearings in Montreal.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is hosting a week of hearings in Montreal, starting March 12.

But Saturviit only learned about the hearing in recent weeks, when inquiry staff invited the organization to take part, said Saturviit’s executive director, Jeannie Nayoumealuk.

“It was such last-minute news,” she said. “It would have been nice to have longer notice, to have time to prepare and reach out to victims.”

While the inquiry may have initially had plans to visit Nunavik in person, the commission is already three-quarters of the way into its two-year mandate. Commissioners have asked for an extension, but the federal government has yet to respond to that request.

As Quebec’s largest city, Montreal serves as a central location for many of the province’s Indigenous communities, including Inuit.

The goal now is to ensure that Nunavimmiut families who wish to testify or give statements can and will, Nayoumealuk said, while ensuring the event has an Inuit focus. Most of the testimony from Inuit families has been concentrated on March 14, inquiry staff said.

Nayoumealuk said Nunavimmiut are familiar with the inquiry, but may not understand its full mandate or the emotional impact of sharing a painful story.

To help, Saturviit will send some of its executive members along with two “natural helpers,” paraprofessional counsellors who can give support to Inuit who participate in the hearings.

“It should come from Nunavik, for Nunavik,” she said.

Satuviit still has concerns about aftercare for those who share their stories, given the lack of psychological support available in Nunavik.

Saturviit’s president, Annie Arnatuk, who lives in Quaqtaq, said she once saw a psychologist for post-traumatic stress disorder over an eight-month period, but she had to travel to Tulattavik health centre in Kuujjuaq for her appointments.

Arnatuk hopes the inquiry will provide follow-up care for those who take part; she also hopes it will result in funding for permanent healing facilities or community intervention programs in Nunavik.

In fact, once people register to testify at the inquiry, its health care team comes up with a plan for how that person will be supported before and after the hearing, including a support person to escort them and counselling afterwards.

The MMIWG inquiry hosted its first hearing in Inuit Nunangat when it visited Rankin Inlet Feb. 20-22, where commissioners heard about the widespread sexual abuse and violence that led to Inuit women’s deaths.

You can reach the commission at 1-844-348-4119, or by calling its Inuit team members Barbara Sevigny directly at 343-998-9772 or Looee Okalik at 613-762-9983. The deadline to register for the Montreal hearings is March 7.

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