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‘More people will go to Ottawa because that’s where the support is’
About 57 people got together recently for a Christmas feat put off by iTUK, Toronto’s first official Inuit group.
©Photo by Veronica Puskas
When Rob Lackie moved to Toronto 15 years ago, he quickly discovered there were little to no resources available for Inuit living in the city.
He’s hoping to change that with Inuit of Toronto Urban Katimavvik (iTUK), an organization that aims to provide help with housing, employment services, family services and social gatherings.
“It’s been in the works for a while,” said Lackie, originally from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “There’s a group of us that live here in Toronto and we realized there aren’t any Inuit specific services at all in the city. No language programs, interpretation services or anything like that.”
iTUK was contacted last year by Tungasuvvingat Inuit in Ottawa, an organization that provides these types of services to Inuit living in that city. That organization is looking at building a strategy to unite the southern communities in Canada so people who are coming from the north will know who to contact in the south, Lackie said.
They attended a meeting in Ottawa in November with representatives from five other major Canadian cities to see the services available in Ottawa, which he described as “amazing.”
“We want to do something similar here in Toronto if we can,” he said. “A lot of the people who come down from the north are here for education, medical reasons, etc. and they don’t know how to get around the city, how to apply for funding, things like that.”
He said the long-term goal is to set up these services in major southern cities across the country so Inuit coming from the north can avail of these services wherever they go.
According to a Statistic Canada report from 2011 there are about 1,300 Inuit living in the Toronto area. Ottawa has the largest Inuit population outside of the north and Lackie said this is possibly due to the programs available there.
“It’s definitely, a ‘If you build it, they will come’ scenario,” he said. “Right now there isn’t anything here, so more people will go to Ottawa because that’s where the support is.”
The organization is currently operating out of a virtual office, but is in the process of becoming incorporated to apply for government funding. He hopes to get that in place soon in order to have a physical office to work out of and further support for the services provided.
The response to the organization has been positive, Lackie said. The group recently held its annual Christmas feast and 59 people attended, which he said is an improvement.
“Word is getting out there and more people are coming together,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for, the awareness.”
iTUK can be reached via social media and has an active Facebook group with more than 100 members to provide
information on developments
and upcoming events. Lackie can be reached at email@example.com.