Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), an Inuit-specific urban services provider that offers community supports, is receiving more than $3 million over five years to expand its programming for young victims and survivors of human trafficking in Ottawa.
The group's funding will be focused on its Alluriarniq program, which provides support to Inuit aged 12 and older who are facing sex trafficking or sexual violence.
Katelyn Collins, a youth transition worker with TI, said this is significant, as many young Inuit in urban environments lack culturally-relevant support.
"The cultural aspect is a huge part of their healing journey," she said. " [It's] a way that they can navigate that journey by themselves and really see how they want it to go throughout living here in the South."
Culturally-relevant programming is also important because Inuit in urban environments experience additional barriers when seeking help, according to Alisa Praamsma, the manager of TI's Alluriarniq program.
"The urban environment is really complex and for some Inuit, we have additional experiences of dealing with racism and discrimination and socioeconomic disparities," she said.
Tungasuvvingat Inuit's anti-human trafficking program is grounded in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, harm-reduction and peer-led approaches, and will support Inuit aged 12 to 29 with direct prevention, education, intervention and healing.
The program will provide early prevention and outreach for Inuit youth, as well as culturally based programming, therapeutic practices, and help them access housing and counselling.
Inuit youth population growing in Ottawa
Collins said improving TI's anti-trafficking programming will help in the long run because the number of young Inuit in Ottawa is growing.
Although Ottawa is in the South, the city has one of the largest Inuit populations (estimated by community groups at between 3,700 to 6,000) outside of the North.
Collins said TI has been looking for a program that would bridge the gap in services and provide support during the day and in the evening.
"It gives them a safe place to go, which isn't isn't always the case [because] Ottawa's a pretty big city," Collins said.
TI's funding is part of the Ontario government's Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, which includes $96 million in community-based services and Indigenous-led supports for victims and survivors of human trafficking over five years.
TI also received funds as a recipient of the Youth Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention Program, one of 11 community-based programs in Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Thunder Bay, Toronto and neighbouring Indigenous communities to prevent youth from becoming involved in gun violence, gang activity and victimization, including human trafficking.
Other organizations receiving funding from the anti-human trafficking and youth violence prevention programs include the Minwaashin Lodge, an Ottawa-based Indigenous women's support centre.
As well, Urban Rez Solutions Social Enterprise in Toronto, which will make social services more accessible to Black youth, will be getting funds, along with the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association in Hamilton, which will deliver a community-based program to prevent crime, violence and increase awareness and self-confidence.