Attawapiskat at lot like Nunavut

I did not know that in Nunavut the rate of violent crime is seven times that in the rest of our country.

I think it is a safe bet very few people would volunteer to move to Attawapiskat, the impoverished and dismal first nation community in northern Ontario.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the images on TV shocked many people, and so they should.

We like to think that such conditions may exist in Haiti or Somalia, but in our own country?

I did not move to Attawapiskat nine years ago, but I encountered identical conditions in Nunavut. I did not know that in Nunavut the rate of violent crime is seven times that in the rest of our country, or that the homicide rate about 1,000 times the Canadian average.

Also, seven out of 10 children there go hungry, while many live in shoddy, government-built, three-room bungalows.

The suicide rate among Inuit males between 15 and 24 years old is 40 times the rate of their peers in the rest of Canada.

And the list goes on.

Had I known these sorry statistics, I probably would have said “no thank you” when the nice lady at the recruiting booth of a medical conference asked me if I wanted to put my years of experience to good use after I had closed my practice in preparation for retirement.

As they say, “Ignorance is bliss,” and even though the people at the University of Manitoba provided me with a thick binder full of useful information, followed by a day of orientation on the Inuit referral centre in Winnipeg, I was not prepared for what I found.

Annie, a surprisingly small Inuit lady, met me at the airport in Rankin Inlet and we shared a decrepit taxi with three other passengers, the luggage piled high in the back and the overflow between our legs.

After a short ride, we arrived at my lodgings for the next six weeks. My quarters were acceptable in retrospect after experiencing far lesser ones in other communities.

The place was decidedly dirty, the bed had been slept in and I had to go and hunt for clean sheets and towels. There was no shower curtain in the bathroom and it took several days to get one. The kitchen was equipped with a collection of mismatching plates, mugs, some cutlery, and pots and pans without matching lids. The dining table was OK after cleaning, but two of the matching chairs were broken. One of the windows would not close, and that meant having to do some snow shoveling in the living room after a blizzard.

This was fine compared to what many locals had to contend with, as I discovered later.

The people I worked with at the health centre were nice enough, the facility quite dated, but reasonably well equipped.

In many ways, I appreciated the pace of work: starting at 8.30 with a half-hour meeting with the staff, reviewing the previous night calls and problem patients. Thereafter, the appointments were 30 minutes per patient, a coffee break mid-morning, an hour for lunch, another mid-afternoon break, and at five, the clinic closed. Quite wonderful in comparison with the pressure cooker environment of my office or walk-in clinic, where I had to see at least six patients per hour for eight or nine hours, with a 15-minute break for lunch in order to deal with the volume of the demand.

All the patients first had to see a registered nurse or nurse practitioner, and only if they could not deal with the presenting problem I got involved.

The nurses looked after all the minor ailments, such as coughs, colds, ear infections, bladder infections. Problems they could equally well handle as the best doctor in the world.

That meant I once again was working as a real doctor, dealing with mostly serious or unusual problems. Professionally, a dream come true, utilizing all the knowledge and skills I had acquired over the years.

It took me all of the first six weeks to get the hang of where everything was located, who was supposed to do what, how to manage travel to Winnipeg or Churchill for further tests and treatment, find out what was available to eat and drink.

It was on subsequent stints that I started to gain insight in the Inuit culture and community, and what I discovered was not pretty.

To be continued.

 

Dr. Marco Terwiel is a retired family physician who lives in Maple Ridge.

Just Posted

Coldest Night of the Year event Saturday

Salvation Army leads people in walk-a-thon for homeless and hungry in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge begins community safety plan

Mayor says council elected with a “strong safety mandate”

Snow and ice leaving their mark on Maple Ridge roads

Public works wants to hear about potholes

Federal funding could finance Alouette fishway

Getting salmon back in to Alouette Lake goal of Maple Ridge conservation group

Maple Ridge Ramblers win girls B.C. wrestling team championship

Haintz leads the way with provincial gold, four others medal

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could say the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read