NationTalk: Nunatsiaq News – With the lighting of the qulliq, an unveiling of a custom mural by Inuk artist Angela Aula plus some country food and raffles, Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s new Toronto location was officially opened Thursday night.
“[Country] food is something that so many community members of Toronto have been missing,” said Paige Kreps, regional manager of the new Toronto centre, in an interview. “Having the space to eat together is so important.”
Judy Anilniliak, the acting executive director of TI who travelled from Ottawa to help celebrate the opening, credited the Toronto team of Darryl Day, youth life promotion, Sheena Taylor, family well-being counsellor, and Kreps for their efforts getting the new location up and running.
The opening of the 2,000-square-foot centre on Front Street was a long time coming, she said, adding in its 35th year TI Toronto is the realization of the organization’s vision to serve all urban Inuit in Ontario.
Statistics Canada reports that more than 20,000 Inuit in Canada now live outside of Inuit Nunangat, with the largest population of urban Inuit residing in Ontario.
As the urban Inuit population continues to grow in Ontario, TI’s Toronto location is a direct response to the need for Inuit-specific services and support for that growing community, said Anilniliak.
Kreps, an urban Inuk who grew up just outside of Toronto, acknowledged the strength of Indigenous service organizations in the city, and recognized their efforts to include Inuit in their service delivery.
She sees the expansion of TI’s presence in Toronto as an opportunity to collaborate with those Indigenous organizations and offer an Inuit-specific lens to their programming to make it more culturally appropriate for Inuit. “The more events and programming we have, the more we can better serve Inuit,” said Kreps.
Inuit in Toronto will have virtual access to TI services such as the Child First Initiative, as well as Alluriarniq, which provides support for Inuit aged 13 and older who are at risk, currently engaged in or are victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
It also offers services for employment and education. On-site activities will begin Nov. 17, and a community Christmas feast is planned for mid-December.
It has always been the goal of TI to be able to meet the demands of the growing urban Inuit population, said board president Kaajuk Kablalik, at the event.
“These spaces are not there for us just naturally, we have to create our own spaces, our own safe spaces,” he said.
“I am very thankful that we can have a safe space, and a familiar space, for our Inuit that are far away from home.”