It may be the solution Nunavut needs.
Removing the perpetrators of domestic violence from the home instead of uprooting the other parent and children.
“We’ve been doing it on a case-by-case,” said Joyce Kent, executive director of the Kataujaq Women’s Shelter in Rankin Inlet, NU. “It’s common sense. Why should the abuser get to stay in the home?”
Kent oversees the shelter, which has three bedrooms and a TV room, just a short walk from the hotel that is hosting the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls this week.
It is one of five shelters in the vast territory roughly the size of western Europe but with a population of only 25,000 people.
Commissioners have heard horrific stories of domestic violence that Pauktuutit, the Inuit Women of Canada, says claims more women in Nunavut than elsewhere in Canada.
“We don’t have enough shelters,” said Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo, who is based in Baker Lake but travelled to Rankin to attend the hearings.
“The one in Baker Lake just closed. The building was condemned.”
When the shelter in Iqaluit is full, the overflow is sent to Rankin. So not only are families out of their homes and schools but their communities, too.
“Why is it men hurt and beat women?” asked Sophie Nashook, who spoke Wednesday about the death of her sister-in-law Della Ootoova in 2008. “I thought the point of a union was love and caring?”
It’s not a question the commissioners can answer. They have two years to examine the factors contributing to violence against Indigenous women and girls across Canada and recommend ways to combat them.
In Nunavut, they are hearing alcohol abuse is often connected with child sexual abuse and domestic violence. With little or no addiction treatment available.
And, survivors say victims are often told by others in the community to keep quiet.
A coroner’s report received a year after her death showed bruises and bite marks on Ootoova’s body said Nashook. “It seems there was a drinking party whereby her husband beat her to death.”
Kudloo says the number of missing women and girls is low compared to other parts of Canada because there are no roads connecting Nunavut’s remote communities. So women in abusive situations are often trapped.
If they can afford a ticket out of town, they flee to homes of family members until they typically return home with nowhere else to go.
Kent, a registered nurse, said that can land women and their children in dangerous situations.
So removing the abuser – a decision she says is taken with the help of community justice officials – makes sense.
It’s also ties a consequence to bad behaviour and frees up shelter space already at a premium, Kent added in an interview.
The parents of Edith Angalik said police were unable to separate their daughter from her abusive boyfriend despite their complaints.
“She told her dad she was going to be killed,” said her mother Amelia.
“I wrote a statement to the RCMP to get help. They went to go see them and said they were fine.”
But they weren’t fine: the couple was abusing alcohol, neglecting their children and fighting with each other.
In 2014, Dwayne Sateana beat Angalik to death in Rankin Inlet, dragging her corpse through the street.
Said her father Anese: “We were using the same rules and laws as down south.”
So maybe there can be a made-in-Nunavut solution, said Susan Enuaraq and her daughter Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss, who was testifying about murdered niece/cousin Sula Enuaraq.
In 2011, Sula and her two daughters were shot to death in Iqaluit by spouse Sylvain Degrasse, who then shot himself.
Susan said she would like to see their house become transitional housing for families in need – something she says Sula would have benefitted from.
“Why did we stay with abusive people? We repress emotions,” said Enuaraq-Strauss. “That’s what Sula did with her husband. Because it’s so normalized to stay quiet.”