Love and kindness in the midst of violence

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© Patricia D’Souza/ITK

Love and kindness are timeless concepts. They are universally understood and appreciated as foundations for healthy lives and communities. I believe the love and kindness Inuit have for one another is what best defines and characterizes our society. Why, then, do we find ourselves too often having to contemplate the terrible acts of anger and hate that have and continue to be perpetrated within our families? The murdered and missing Inuit women and girls of the past and present demand that we consider this question. The violence that ebbs and flows in our communities like a vicious tide demands that we mobilize to address its root causes lest we be washed away with its power.

Certainly colonialism in all its facets is a root cause. Cultural genocide, relocation, marginalization, and lack of power over our lives can help explain why our society is affected by violence and why violence has been generated within our communities. Historical trauma is a term that is often used to describe how present dysfunction is connected to past, traumatic events. Overcoming historical trauma is a tremendous challenge before us. A key opportunity to help break this cycle will be the imminent federal inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said emphatically that “Indigenous lives matter.” I expect the inquiry process to reflect this intimate but symbolic statement from the Crown. It is a process that, no matter how difficult, is entirely necessary for many of our people to be able to listen, learn, remember, and begin to heal.

“I think of all of our beautiful Inuit children and do not find it acceptable that they have a greater likelihood of being exposed to violence based on their gender, ethnicity or where they live.”

For our part, we must not believe all societal problems are larger than our ability as Inuit to help solve them. Answers to any problem of such magnitude are usually complex, with no single solution or intervention able to transform the societal challenge into an inclusive solution. Each one of us has an individual role to play in making our communities healthier and safer, especially for our most vulnerable. I think of all of our beautiful Inuit children and do not find it acceptable that they have a greater likelihood of being exposed to violence based on their gender, ethnicity or where they live. We say that we love our children and we must challenge ourselves to fight to any end necessary to prove it to them.

The level of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence in our communities is unacceptable. As an Inuk, I believe I must play an active and meaningful role in preventing violence, preventing abuse, and protecting those who are most vulnerable. I will listen and learn from the voices of those who will inform the inquiry, and will do all I can to implement its recommendations on a personal and professional level. Historical trauma ends with me. Historical trauma ends with us. Historical trauma ends when love and kindness define and characterize a childhood, a relationship, a community, a region, a people.

Natan Obed

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami