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Nunavummiut gather to fight addiction

Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 21/05) - Radio call-in shows and community gatherings are among the top ways Nunavut addiction and wellness workers will reach out to residents during Addictions Awareness Week, Nov. 20-26.

Rankin Inlet alcohol and drug co-ordinator Mary Irkootee plans to screen the film Honour of All for youth in her community.

She says the film deals with how alcohol gripped a First Nations village in B.C. and what residents did to break the hold it had on their lives.

"I am still trying to get the message out to people in our community that you don't have to be afraid to come to us for help," says Irkootee.

"I'll use events this week to tell people they have friends at the Aqsaaraq Addictions Project who will do whatever they can to help.

"We don't judge anyone. You don't have to be embarrassed or afraid to walk through our doors."

Elsewhere around Nunavut, here's a bit of what you can expect to see happening during the week in your community.

Ausuittuq/Grise Fiord

Most years Ummimak school students create posters illustrating what addictions they want their parents to overcome and later throw them in a big bonfire near the school.

"It's a tradition that we've been doing for a couple years now," said school language specialist and event co-ordinator Meeka Kigukgak.

The mayor usually makes a speech at the school and on the radio discussing addictions that is aired throughout the week, said Kigukgak.

Qamanittuaq/Baker Lake

Baker Lake alcohol and drug worker Mary Kreelak is organizing a sober walk to mark Addictions Awareness Week.

She says other events will be held to bring the community together and show that people can have a great time without alcohol.

"We'll be holding a regular AA meeting, and we'll organize an evening of games for the family to enjoy together," says Kreelak.

"We may also hold a special concert of fiddle music and other talent."

Igluligaarjuk/Chesterfield Inlet

Rita Kadluk is the alcohol and drug worker in Chesterfield Inlet.

She hopes to have a free awareness dance for the teenagers in the community, and a square dance for the adults.

"We'll also be hosting a phone-in show on local radio in our community," says Kadluk.

"We always get a good response to the radio shows. A lot of people in the community participate when we hold them."

Salliq/Coral Harbour

Heather Kolit has only been a drug and alcohol worker in Coral Harbour for three months.

Although still busy learning her job, she says it's always important to generate awareness in the community.

"I'm sure we'll be holding some sort of community gathering and the talk shows are always popular on the radio," says Kolit.

"It's a good way to increase awareness and people come up with some good ideas when they give their opinions on the show."

Naujat/Repulse Bay

Joanna Kopak chairs the alcohol committee in Repulse Bay.

She says the committee prefers to be given direction on what events to host.

"Our committee is willing to put on any event in the community we're asked for," says Kopak.

"I would like to see a traditional square dance held for the adults. That always attracts a good crowd and it's a good way to talk to most of the community at once."

Ikpiarjuk/Arctic Bay

The Health Centre here has a lot planned for the week.

Community Health Nurse Rhoda Nattenine will speak about addiction and its many forms on the radio and at the school as she did last year.

Nattenine is also planning a school project of some kind, similar to last year's.

In 2004, students form Kindergarten to Grade 12 made posters depicting how they see addiction.

The community will also "Keep the Circle Strong" by joining hands, singing and praying for the people who are addicted, she said.


Last year the community's main focus for the week was tobacco addiction, said Roxanne Stuckless executive director for the Baffin Health and Social Services.

The Health Centre made presentations at the school on tobacco reduction and promoted people addicted to cigarettes to go on the patch.

Sanirajak/Hall Beach

Many activities allowing people to have fun without drugs or alcohol are planned for the week, said George Nagmalik, this community's

wellness and mental health worker. Last year people played outside Inuit games, like Iglu-building, said Nagmalik.

"This year we need to organize more games at the community hall."

Plus, he is planning to have the community gather and join hands to pray for those suffering.

Kangiqtugaapik/Clyde River

There is a dance with lots of games and fun things to do without getting drunk or stoned held here.

"We hold a sober dance," said community health representative Igah Sanguya.

Plus there will be radio shows talking about addictions and ways to overcome them, that will air during the week.

"And if they invite me to the school to talk, I will be glad to do it," said Sanguya.

Mittimatalik/Pond Inlet

Executive director for the Baffin Health and Social Services Roxanne Stuckless said last year a host of events happened in the hamlet with the highlight being a sod house demonstration.

"A traditional sod house was built for display and elders were inside telling stories about the old days," said Stuckless.There was also a radio talk show about drug and alcohol awareness, while games were played and everyone enjoyed a community feast.

"They are planning on doing the same this year," said Stuckless.

Uqsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven

Residents here have already shown what they think of alcohol.

Gjoa Haven voted overwhelmingly to keep the community dry after the question of allowing booze into the hamlet was raised by a petition with 30 signatures.

For Addictions Awareness Week, there will be guest speakers at the school.

Qikiqtarjuaq/Broughton Island

Community health representative Sarah Qaqqaq says getting people together to make a difference during addictions awareness week is tough in a community of 550 people.

She does regular presentations at the school on the risks of addictions, whether they be in the form of cigarettes, solvents, drugs or alcohol.

"We are now doing tobacco addictions awareness workshops and have been giving out lots of nicotine patches," said Qaqqaq.

But as far as Addictions Awareness Week is concerned, nothing is yet planned.


Hamlet employee David Kazone will be handling the activities for the week, but is still waiting for approval from the council on this year's schedule.

He expects there to be a range of activities promoting healthy living for youth and adults alike.

Taloyoak/Spence Bay

Plans are up in the air for the week in Taloyoak. The community does not have a wellness co-ordinator.

Scotty Edgerton, a Taloyoak resident said, "we have been looking in the community for a qualified one."

In the meantime, the community's social and mental health workers fill the gap, but as of press time had yet to finish the schedule for Addictions Awareness Week.