Friendship facility inadequate

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Nov 26/97) - Nunavut's only friendship centre can't be a gathering place for elders and the community because the facility is inadequate, says the centre's executive director.

"We're not a friendship centre where people can gather -- we're a house with two bedrooms," said Myrna Michon.

Instead, the small Rankin Inlet bungalow is functioning as an administrative office and small counselling centre for victim services. Any programs the centre organizes has to be held off the premises.

At the centre's annual general meeting last week, Michon outlined the programs that can't exist because of funding cuts and the fact there is no room for a meeting place at the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre, recently renamed from Sappujjijit.

Meaning a place to visit, Pulaarvik Kablu may become somewhat of a misnomer as the centre's new name if people aren't able to meet there.

"We are precariously housed -- we need a new program building," Michon said.

Out of 120 friendship centres across Canada and eight in the NWT, the Rankin Inlet facility is the only Inuit centre in the country.

"We are the only one in the Eastern Arctic," she said. "1999 is coming and we'll still be the only one. We need to be strong -- not to stop programs because we're not being funded."

The elders' program and the family counselling program was cut because of reductions in funding from the federal government's secretary of state for the past two years.

Michon said that the centre's board is in the process of putting together a business proposal that will help identify ways to access funding for a new centre.

"There is a lot of things to be done -- there is no Santa Claus -- nobody is going to give us a new building, but we can do it," she said.

Michon said that if the right funding is accessed, a centre where people can meet is a possibility.

"We see our centre -- and it's just visionary at this point --with a large meeting room," she said. "Over the next few months, we will be working on it," she said.

Right now, she added, the centre needs to get community support.

"It's for the community, by the community," she said.