Wednesday, April 25, 2018

OTTAWA – Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada has no additional information regarding the Ike Haulli case other than what has been publicly released. Pauktuutit stands with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We recognize the courage and strength it takes for adults and children to talk about child sexual abuse and deeply commend those who have chosen to disclose.

Pauktuutit has called for immediate action on childhood sexual abuse in Inuit communities since our inception as the national voice of Inuit women in 1984. Unfortunately, the response from the government around this issue has been minimal with no plan for collective action.

For more than 30 years, Pauktuutit has taken a leadership role in its efforts to prevent and address child sexual abuse while raising public awareness and education about this issue. Pauktuutit has urged governments and policymakers to do more to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to child sexual abuse. This includes advocating tirelessly for Inuit specific prevention, healing, and treatment services for victims of abuse.

Today, the prevalence of sexual abuse in some Inuit communities is indisputably high. It can be difficult to find anybody who does not have personal experience with this issue. A 2012 Statistics Canada report found rates of sexual offences against children and youth were highest in the territories — the Northwest Territories and Nunavut recorded the highest rates in Canada, followed by Yukon. In the 2007-08 Inuit Health Survey conducted in Nunavut, a staggering 52 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men said they experienced severe sexual abuse during childhood.[1] Other research has concluded that child sexual abuse is one of the major challenges facing Indigenous communities across the continent. Women and children have been particularly affected.

Inuit face significant barriers to appropriate and equitable services due to geography, lack of infrastructure and staff, language and cultural barriers. Inuit are faced with far fewer comprehensive, available and accessible services and a very limited number of practitioners who can provide these services. There is often a lack of dedicated long-term funding since funding is often project-based and time-limited. This make sustainability a continual challenge. There is frequently a lack of trained frontline Inuit service providers and a high turn-over rate of non-Inuit service providers. There is a tremendous need for culturally appropriate counselling and support services that is not being met by existing resources.

A common barrier to disclosing abuse and seeking help in small communities is the fact that anonymity can be almost nonexistent. In small communities, there is often a lack of privacy due to the high likelihood that police, health professionals and frontline service providers know both the victim and perpetrator. This lack of anonymity can create major challenges for victims of sexual abuse. Victims may fear that they be met with stigma, shame, community gossip and inadequate personal safety and protection. Victims may also fear that the perpetrator will not be held accountable.

Furthermore, due to the normalization of violence and abuse in some communities and the importance placed on maintaining family unity, some victims of sexual abuse may choose not to disclose. Victims can experience immense pressure to not report the abuse for many reasons including keeping the perpetrator out of prison. In other cases, the family may be dependent on the abuser as the breadwinner or head of the household and may fear that disclosure could deeply harm her family’s social and financial status.

Pauktuutit, in 2016, produced a strategic plan for Inuit Violence Prevention and Healing that includes specific measures to address child sexual abuse. The following year, Pauktuutit launched a tremendously successful national public video awareness campaign, through the Believe-Ask-Connect series, on the issue of sexual abuse of Inuit children. The campaign increases awareness and education about the prevalence of child sexual abuse and empowers youth survivors of child sexual abuse to know that they are not alone and that there is hope and help. As part of this campaign, Pauktuutit developed a comprehensive online list of resources for help and support in Inuit Nunangat and urban communities with significant Inuit populations.

Pauktuutit feels strongly that there is a significant work to be done to change communities’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours as it relates to child sexual abuse through public awareness and education. It is critical that adequate supports be made available for children who have been sexually abused before, during and after disclosure as well as throughout the legal process.

To this end, the primary objective of Pauktuutit’s current three year, Engaging Men and Boys in Reducing Violence against Women and Girls project, is to support measures to address violence against Inuit women and girls by engaging men and boys through the enhancement of available tools and resources to facilitate and sustain their health and healing. The secondary objective is to dismantle communities’ harmful values and beliefs that tolerate violence against women and girls through public disapproval of violence. Simultaneously, Pauktuutit is conducting a comprehensive research study related to current factors affecting violence against Inuit women. The study will identify the reasons for accessing shelters to inform a needs assessment of shelter services, determine the cost of violence against women to the health care system and address several of the barriers that currently prevent more effective action to address these specific issues.

As part of denouncing violence and abuse, we must ensure that those in positions of power and authority are of good character, behaviour and reflect the positive values of Inuit communities. Pauktuutit recognizes the courage and strength it takes for adults and children to talk about child sexual abuse and deeply commends those who have chosen to disclose. We will continue to work towards ensuring that all Inuit survivors have access to high-quality, culturally-safe and responsive services. These services should be enhanced through the coordination of multidisciplinary teams to provide safety and well-being.  Supports must be community-driven and tailored to Inuit women and children’s specific needs.

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For interviews, contact:

Amanda Deseure, Director of Communications
613-238-3977 ext 239

[1]Galloway, T., & Saudny, H. (2012). Inuit health survey 2007-2008: Nunavut community and personal wellness. Retrieved from