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Shelters and Transitional Housing

The most recent Canadian statistics continue to show that the North has some of the highest rates of family and gendered violence in the country. More than 70% of the 53 Inuit communities spread across four geographic regions of the Canadian Arctic do not have a safe shelter for women and children experiencing family violence. This can mean a woman may have to plead with local social service workers to be flown to another community to seek safety. There have been too many cases in the Arctic when the lack of access to safe alternatives has led to the loss of lives.

For the approximately 15 existing safe shelters and transition homes, very high occupancy rates combined with daily challenges to meet operating and human resource requirements contribute to high staff turnover rates due to burnout, lack of peer support and often little to no training because of geographic isolation and limited financial resources for training. There is no second stage housing in the Arctic, which can be crucial in a woman’s efforts to re-establish a life without violence.

This is compounded by a lack of available, safe housing and randomly under-funded programs and services that are offered without being sustainable, Inuit-specific, or consistent between communities. Many positions in the North for service providers in the fields of health, mental health, and social work are left vacant. While the provinces and territories are responsible for housing and safe shelters for women, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada provides operational funding to shelters on-reserve, and also “reimburses costs for off-reserve shelter services used by First Nations people ordinarily resident on-reserve.” As Inuit communities are not reserves, shelters serving Inuit women in the Arctic cannot access this funding.