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TORONTO STAR

They cook Toronto’s food, and build its houses — but can they afford to live here? (mer., 26 juin 2019)
What happens when the workers who make a city function can no longer afford to live there? In Toronto, some paramedics are commuting from as far away as St. Catharines and Campbellford. Social workers are competing with their clients for housing. And cooks, who are turning out tasty fare in the city’s signature restaurants, are often priced out of the neighbourhoods they serve. There are a lot of people in their 30s working in Toronto kitchens who are still living at home with their parents, says chef and caterer Ang McCluskey, who has spent decades cooking and mentoring young kitchen workers. “They don’t want anybody to know because, frankly, it’s embarrassing,” she said. In an industry known to be long on hours and short on pay, Toronto’s housing challenges can be soul sapping for kitchen staff, McCluskey said. “When you’re a young kid or an apprentice and you are making $15 or $16 an hour, you will live with three roommates. But your life isn’t great and you know it. There’s no privacy at your work. There’s no privacy at your home. It impacts you,” she said. Leaders in other employment sectors, including retail and social services, cite similar challenges. Toronto’s civic housing challenge has a personal impact on peoples’ day-to-day lives. Recognizing that Torontonians are increasingly desperate about the city’s housing situation, the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) examined how some vital workers are coping with the growing challenges around supply and affordability. The business group already knew the high cost of housing was preventing the city’s highly educated, well-paid young professionals from paying down debt and saving for retirement. But how were kitchen staff, paramedics, retail employees, social workers and construction workers managing on median incomes ranging from about $40,000 to $90,000 annually? The board created a series of maps showing where workers in those job classes could afford to rent or own a home in the city and how much of their income it would take to access various housing options. Read more: Five jobs and the Toronto housing struggles that come with them About 1,400 of Toronto’s subsidized housing units sit empty each day as city struggles with waiting list Ontario sets 2020 rent increase guideline at 2.2 per cent The maps draw a bleak picture of the sometimes desperately limited choices for all but the highest paid workers among the five job classes. Only paramedics could afford to buy a home on the median incomes studied and even then they could afford only a condo apartment or townhouse. The information raises questions about how the city will continue to attract and keep vital workers, especially with so many neighbourhoods confined to single-family homes that are unaffordable to all the groups studied. A sous chef earning about $38,000 annually could rent a bachelor apartment in many areas of the city for 30 to 40 per cent of their after-tax income, the percentage that is considered affordable. A one-bedroom, however, would cost 40 to 50 per cent of their wages. As the space requirement goes up to a two- or three-bedroom unit, the same worker has fewer choices and is likely looking at a longer commute. Grocery store workers — a full-time employee or someone at the assistant manager level who has a median income of $43,000 — can rent a bachelor apartment in many areas of the city for under 40 per cent of their wage. They can even rent around the subway if they are willing to spend up to half their income on a studio or one-bedroom unit. But there are only a couple of pockets where they can afford that much space for less than 30 per cent of their paycheck. The TRBOT maps show there are virtually no home ownership options downtown for those earning less than $100,000 and even along the subway the rental choices are scarce. The most affordable housing exists to the extreme east and west of downtown, suggesting there is no relief in sight for Toronto’s infamously long commute times. “If you can’t ride your bike to work it’s going to take you at least an hour or two on TTC to get to where you need to go and then to get home again. I know a lot of people that spend three or four hours a day in travel time because they’re happy in their work and their job pays well enough that they figure it’s worth it,” McCluskey said. Even construction workers, who build housing, benefit from more transit, said Andrew Pariser of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). That’s why the industry pushes for better transit, not only as a source of employment, but because it makes it easier for workers to get to their jobs in the GTA. “By better connecting communities, it’s almost like you’re moving time and space and making the GTA a smaller region because now it’s more accessible,” Pariser said. Housing is what Board of Trade vice-president Brian Kelcey calls, “a kitchen sink policy problem,” requiring solutions on all fronts. “The social housing crisis, the affordable housing crisis and the attainable housing crisis are all inextricably linked. We need to solve all three of the problems or one will cascade back on the other two,” he said. Torontonians have found ways to manage by living with roommates, staying with family, commuting long distances or squeezing into tiny apartments. But many neighbourhoods have been zoned to prevent the construction of more affordable units that would put these workers closer to their jobs, transit and services. Kelcey doesn’t believe the resistance to diversifying housing in those neighbourhoods can be legislated away. “We need to change minds as well as change laws to get homes spread out throughout our city the way they need to be,” he said. “We’ve got entire neighbourhoods where they’re happy to eat the food prepared by these (workers) but they’re not willing to let them live anywhere near their neighbourhoods. So there’s going to be a point where those neighbourhood restaurants can’t be there any more because these people aren’t around,” he said. “I don’t think anybody wants to live in a city where paramedics have to travel two-plus hours to come to work a 12-hour shift and then have to drive two hours back. I wouldn’t want an overtired paramedic taking care of me,” Kelcey said. Toronto’s food scene is a point of civic pride but the same high real estate prices that afflict kitchen workers, also impact restaurateurs’ ability to strive, thrive and pay higher wages, said industry recruiter Eric Wood. “People can’t double their menu prices. Labour’s gone up, the cost of food and rent goes up — there’s not a lot of room for wages to go up when you’ve got someone who puts their life savings on the line,” he said. “One of the biggest selling points of moving to a smaller community is being able to afford a home,” Wood said. McCluskey says the government and the industry could consider housing solutions such as pairing young workers with seniors who can share their food traditions and housing. Would it makes sense to build dormitory-style housing for young chefs? She also thinks there is merit in encouraging the kind of boarding houses that were common after the Second World War when homeowners used rent as a way to pay for maintenance or unforeseen expenses but fears some residents would object. It doesn’t matter what you do, no one is immune to the Toronto housing crisis because costs have simply outstripped incomes, said Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services director of people and culture Dwight Anderson. Some of the multi-service agency’s best frontline workers have experienced homelessness themselves. They have to steer clear of competing directly for the same housing resources as their clients, he said. About four times in the last year Anderson says he has heard of staff receiving eviction notices. “You get people who think they’re OK and suddenly they’ve got a renoviction on their hands,” Anderson said. Renoviction is the problematic practice of landlords evicting existing tenants to upgrade a unit in order to charge more. Like social services where employers are competing with unionized retailers for staff, the construction job market is tight. An industry study this year showed that 91,000 Ontario construction workers are slated to retire within the next decade. Nearly half of those will be in the GTA. Construction workers usually go where the jobs are and right now the jobs are in downtown Toronto. But all that activity makes for a competitive labour market and there’s also work in places such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Oshawa and Niagara so workers have choices, said RESCON’s Pariser. The competition means employers make it easier to get to these well-paying unionized positions by starting shifts as early as 7 a.m. to avoid the rush hours, he said. Paramedics were the highest earners among the job classifications mapped by the Board of Trade. But as challenging as the city’s prices can be, “you have to look at it from a standpoint of humility,” said Darryl Wilton of the Ontario Paramedic Association. “Paramedics enter communities every day where we know people struggle,” he said. That includes newcomers, who are also facing challenges with language and employment. Sometimes, he said, people are living in subpar conditions through no fault of their own. High housing prices and Toronto’s practice of hiring new paramedics on part-time has prompted some to move to smaller cities such as Ottawa, Wilton said. He said it takes about seven years on average to get a full-time position in Toronto, where new hires also begin at the lowest level of paramedicine called primary care. Those new hires are often starting their careers with student debt. Some commute from as far as St. Catharines and Campbellford, and it’s not unusual for a paramedic to get a late call in the last half-hour of their shift. That will push a 12-hour shift into a 14-hour workday, Wilton said. “Once you add the commutes on that, you could easily be looking at a 16-, 17- or 18-hour day. That’s one of the concerns we have. How do you ensure they’re still going to be able to deliver a high calibre of human care,” he said. The Board of Trade maps are an illustrative representation only. They take the median earnings of the five job classes and overlay them with data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and April figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board. The Board of Trade checked the wage levels against industry sources to ensure they are truly reflective of earning levels. The average price of a detached house in the city of Toronto in April was $1.36 million; a condo was $637,181. The maps are based on single-income households — that’s about 30 per cent of Toronto homes. They don’t take into account additional shelter-related expenses such as utilities, insurance and maintenance, and the home ownership scenarios assume a 5 per cent down payment on a home with a 3.29 per cent mortgage rate. The income levels for each of the five job classifications studies are based on Statistics Canada data with input from industry groups and reports. Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski
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Why extreme messaging on Edmonton’s anti-Trudeau billboards is concerning experts (Wed, 26 Jun 2019)
EDMONTON—On a recent June day, a large billboard on the south side of Edmonton cast a shadow over the passing cars below. “Is Trudeau leading us to civil war?” asked the blood-red lettering emblazoned across a black background on the 10-foot-by-20-foot electronic sign. Above the main text was a series of phrases provided without context, among them: “mass migration,” “firearms ban,” “normalizing pedophilia,” “eco-hysteria” and “globalism.” The man behind the billboard, and another like it on the city’s west side, sums it up: “These are the kinds of things that people are talking about online,” said Peter Downing. Downing is a former Mountie. His lobby group, Alberta Fights Back, also funded a billboard in February that asked “Should Alberta Ditch Canada?” He said he has more billboards on the way. Read more: Alberta’s Jason Kenney warns of separatist angst in first visit to Ottawa Facebook refuses to remove false content during Canadian election Bots, hackers and trolls: How the digital misinformation war is being waged ahead of the federal election “It’s pointing out the dysfunction and bringing it out in the public to have this discussion,” he said. Some of the most heated topics on the internet — including conspiracy theories and out-and-out falsehoods — have morphed from right-wing message boards to the streets of the Alberta capital, often in the form of antipathy in Alberta toward Trudeau and the federal government. University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley said the Alberta election discourse validated some of the emotions that underlie the extreme messaging pushed by groups like Alberta Fights Back, and politicians have failed to step up and condemn them. “Before social media, I think we lived in a time where establishment parties would snuff that out. They would either stifle it, or they would make public comments to the effect of, ‘This is not who we represent, this is not what we’re about.’ But we haven’t seen any parties do that,” Wesley said. “The embers will keep burning until somebody snuffs them out. And I just don’t get a sense from Alberta politicians that they’re interested in doing that.” He said it’s unlikely these groups will have an impact on the federal election, as there is nothing the prime minister could do to win them over. “These folks are not persuaded by knowledge, facts, evidence, law.” But the messages cross a line from commentary to misinformation, and an Edmonton lawyer said that could land Downing in trouble. The notion of a “firearms ban” comes from a rumour spread by independent MP Tony Clement, who said in May that Trudeau was planning to announce a ban on all legal firearms during a women’s conference. However Trudeau never announced a ban. The “normalizing pedophilia” point stems partly from a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation document that contains a triangular logo, vaguely resembling one that the FBI has identified as being used by pedophiles to secretly discuss their sexual proclivities. Triangular logos are used by many companies and organizations, but Downing draws the pedophilia link based on a belief in the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy that influenced a 2016 shooting at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. The conspiracy falsely suggests a number of high-ranking politicians are involved in child sex-trafficking rings. Media and defamation lawyer Sean Ward said while Canada has broad protections for people expressing opinions on matters of public interest, the defence of fair comment requires the comment or opinion to be based on facts. “There’s obviously an expectation of heated political rhetoric, and perhaps a greater deference to criticism of public officials, but the people who are making comments about political figures are not immune from defamation actions,” Ward said. “There is still a legal risk where you’re making those kinds of allegations if they’re not based on provable facts.” A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office declined to comment. At pro-oil Yellow Vest protests in Edmonton last winter, some held signs depicting violence against Trudeau. A quick scan of Yellow Vests Canada’s Facebook page at the time showed commenters accusing the prime minister of treason and calling for his assassination. Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams said the “garbled” messaging on Downing’s billboard is reminiscent of the rhetoric from the truck convoy that drove from Alberta to Ottawa in February, when people with a range of political concerns diluted the messaging to the point that it wasn’t clear what was going on. “There obviously are some people in Alberta that are extremely angry,” Williams said. “This billboard tries to touch on a number of different issues and concerns, but there’s no sort of coherent line that runs through them. And some of those will appeal to one group and be abhorrent to another group.” Resentment toward “Ottawa” — nothing new in this province — has been stewing once more in Alberta since the 2014 recession, with some believing Trudeau has ignored the western provinces and obstructed progress on pipelines. Premier Jason Kenney frequently targeted Trudeau during his spring election campaign, disparagingly accusing NDP Leader Rachel Notley of forming an “alliance” with the prime minister. But even some of those who donated to Alberta Fights Back think Downing has gone too far. Elections Alberta records show Downing himself is the group’s biggest financial contributor, but he has received $1,000 from the second-highest donor, former Wildrose Party candidate Sharon Maclise. Maclise said she donated to fund the February pro-separatism billboards but was surprised to learn about the latest ones. “I do not endorse it and I would not have agreed for my money to be used for it,” she said. “That does not say that I like Justin Trudeau, but I think that is radical nonsense and I don’t want to be associated with it and I am very upset. I didn’t even know it was up.” Alberta Fights Back paid to put the Trudeau signs up for a week at two major intersections in early June, sparking some shock and anger on social media. The ads have since run their course and have come down. Wesley said the group’s extreme views only represent a small portion of the population — a post-election poll conducted by U of A researchers found about 12 per cent of Albertans favour separation — but added “history tells us you can’t ignore these things.” “You need to take a firm stance in favour of, in this case, staying in Canada. And I can’t believe we have to say that,” Wesley said. “They’re playing on emotions. And they’re getting attention for doing it.” Kevin Maimann is an Edmonton-based reporter covering education and marijuana legalization. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMaimann
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Alberta government ‘fighting hard’ after China’s sudden suspension of Canadian meat imports (Wed, 26 Jun 2019)
CALGARY—The Alberta government says it’s fighting hard to find a resolution to China’s sudden suspension of all meat imports from Canada on Tuesday. The Chinese embassy told The Canadian Press it ordered the suspension after it found traces of the restricted food additive ractopamine in some Canadian pork imports. Ractopamine is permitted in Canada, but not in China. The statement from the embassy alleged that those imports were accompanied by counterfeit veterinary health certificates, something it calls a criminal offence. In a statement Tuesday evening, Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen said he has already spoken with his federal counterpart, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, as well as industry members and “reinforced that the Alberta government’s priority will be to protect our farmers during this difficult time.” Bibeau said in a statement that the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency “identified an issue involving inauthentic export certificates” and “has informed appropriate law enforcement agencies.” She said the agency was investigating a “technical issue” and was working with industry partners and Chinese officials. Premier Jason Kenney has also been in touch with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, according to Dreeshen’s statement, to share “our disappointment with this action and the impact it will have on farmers.” Read more: China bans all Canadian meat before G20 as diplomatic dispute escalates Lawyers urge Canada to stop Huawei exec’s extradition to U.S. on fraud charges Canadian and Chinese officials hold talks about canola as China targets pork The newspaper Le Journal de Québec, which first reported the ban, quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary. The move comes as China deals with a massive outbreak of African swine flu, a disease harmless to humans, but highly contagious — and fatal — to pigs. Since August, China has culled over 1.1 million pigs, according to figures provided to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and has tightened controls on pork shipments. This is the latest ban placed by China on Canadian products; canola saw a similar block earlier this year. Both bans could have a significant impact on Alberta, which produces a large amount of Canada’s beef and canola products, as well as pork. Canadian exports of pork and beef have risen in the past several years. According to statistics from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, beef and veal exports to China rose 344 per cent between April 2018 and April 2019, from $14.3 million to $63.6 million. Pork exports to China rose during the same period from $172.4 million to $310.2 million. Alberta is responsible for 59.6 per cent of Canadian feeder cattle, or cattle intended for slaughter, according to 2016 data from Statistics Canada. Quebec has the highest number of pigs for slaughter, with 8,667,197 in 2017, while Alberta clocked in at 2,597,475. This isn’t the first time the Prairie pork industry has been hit by such a ban. In 2007, China rejected imports from a Manitoba pork processing plant because of the same feed additive. However, at the time, industry insiders told The Canadian Press they believed the ban was a response to a North American crackdown on Chinese goods. With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press Rosa Saba is a reporter/photographer with Star Calgary. Follow her on Twitter: @rosajsaba Brennan Doherty is a work and wealth reporter with Star Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @bren_doherty
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‘It was hard to breathe the next day’: An 11-year-old’s homicide stirs memories of trauma in Rankin Inlet’s Inuit community (Wed, 26 Jun 2019)
RANKIN INLET, NUNAVUT — Almost everyone here remembers OJ’s laugh. The 11-year-old was a jokester at home and school. “I demanded he call me uncle, but he never would. He was a little bugger that way,” his uncle Louis Taparti said last year, laughing from his living room couch. The sounds of passing all-terrain vehicles and kids on bikes filtered through the window with the summer sun. “I hated when he called me Louis.” Ray Taparti, OJ’s father for whom Ray Okpik Jr. (a.k.a. OJ) was named, lived on the other side of a wall he shared with Louis, in a semi-detached house that OJ lived in until his death. “He was a happy boy ... I just miss his big smile. His laughter,” Ray said from his kitchen, staring off, his face lined with deep folds. Louis and Ray have lost other family members prematurely: one brother froze to death in the middle of this town of about 3,000. Another brother ended his own life. Tragedies like the Taparti family have experienced are not uncommon in Rankin Inlet or Nunavut. But the killing of OJ shocked the community. At school, OJ was sharp and witty and had lots of energy. He would often run around the gym in his Air Jordans. Some days, OJ didn’t get enough sleep or food. At school, he would have a nap in the cosy Corner and a snack. And then he was back to himself. He liked to tease Nelson Kablalik, a teaching assistant who was slightly hard of hearing. OJ would sidle up beside Nelson and whisper, “tiktik,” — earwax in Inuktitut. OJ and his friends would laugh. Nelson looked out for OJ, afraid the kid was slipping between the cracks. “It was hard to breathe the next day,” Nelson said a year after OJ’s mangled body was found on July 7, 2017. For many here in Rankin Inlet, traumatic events began piling up with the Canadian government’s colonial efforts in the mid 1900s. Authorities scooped children from their families and placed them in residential and day schools during a campaign of cultural deprivation. Government health officials tore families apart by sending some far away for mandatory health treatment. Some never returned and lie in graves unknown to their families. And with colonization began the waves of sexual abuse, substance abuse and violence — trends that remain high today. OJ’s murder was the latest in an onslaught of traumatic events that overwhelm the heart and mind. But despite the burden, people also find measures of closure, healing and forgiveness. Many draw strength from their culture, family, community and the land around them. The Star spoke to more than 30 locals about OJ’s death. Many remembered a kid with a big personality and endless energy. But many also told their own traumatic stories, as though triggered by OJ’s death. Neighbours in this tight-knit community grapple with how other young people may have been responsible for OJ’s violent end. OJ’s family doesn’t know where or when, exactly, he died. But they do know where his lifeless body was found: in the middle of a garage junkyard, hidden in a row of truck trailers. If you face the front of M & T garage, about 12 metres to the right sit three parallel rows of truck trailers, backhoes and cube trucks. The rows, which stretch to the shore of the inlet, create dimmed alleys. Backhoe tires, spare parts and other debris sit atop the trailers and spill from the cube trucks. OJ was found in a trailer in the middle row. This trailer has been removed. The spot sits empty, like a gaping hole in a row of teeth. OJ was about to enter Grade 6 at Simon Alaittuq Elementary School, where slogans hang from oversized Inuit drums strung from rafters. “We’ve Only Just Begun,” one says. “What Dreams May Come,” says another. OJ had been missing for about five days before a community-wide search-and-rescue effort was called. Two young men discovered OJ’s body just hours into the search. “They came back asking for help, screaming, yelling, crying — they were really terrified [of] what they had discovered,” said Wesley Inukshuk, manager of the search-and-rescue team. The story around town is that the two young men saw a light shoot in the air when they were on top of a hill by the gas station. The light came from across Johnston Cove, near the garage. They followed the light and found OJ’s corpse, wrapped in plastic, hidden beneath junk. “They couldn’t identify OJ by his features, like he was tortured,” a local shop-owner overheard police say. Police finally arrested two suspects last October — one young man and one youth. At the time of the arrests, the RCMP said it was one of the biggest investigations in Nunavut’s history, involving more than 100 officers, 15 agencies or departments and 75 interviews. The RCMP provided little information or updates to the community, family and friends of OJ said. When asked how and when police kept the community informed, the RCMP said it “does not release information on a criminal investigation until it becomes a matter of public record or is in the public interest.” The Star visited Rankin Inlet before and after the arrests. “Did he get raped? Did he get stabbed?” Lena Siutinuar, OJ’s mom asked repeatedly just months before the arrests. Lena has never been allowed to see her son’s body. OJ’s parents, who split up before OJ’s death, said the lack of communication from police was like an open wound and made them feel hopeless. Louis Taparti said rumours put the entire community on edge while parents worried for the safety of their kids. “It makes you look at people that you trust most of your life and you look at them and wonder, is that the person? Is that the person? Is that the person? … It just makes you think that everybody’s a suspect until they find the person who did it, or the persons responsible,” he said. Now, the family awaits criminal court proceedings to find out about OJ’s final moments and days. “I just came here to love you, mom, and hug you,” OJ told his mom the last time she saw him. In summer months along Rankin Inlet’s rocky coastline on the western shore of Hudson Bay, sunlight sparkles on water as far as the eye can see. Chatter over the local CB radio talks of wildlife sightings and travel to neighbouring but also far-flung communities. On the tundra side, low-lying ridges frame a vista of winding rivers and small lakes. Cabins and tents line many of the waterways, where thousands of caribou pass every year on their migration across the barrenlands. OJ would sometimes go fishing with friends out here. Louis and Ray used to hunt out here. “Nuna” means “land” in Inuktitut, but also includes the sea, ice, animals and even souls and memories of those who lived before. It’s the Nuna that many Inuit live for — to hunt, fish and sustain themselves, and to connect with the supernatural and the spirits of their ancestors. In town, the strength of Inuit culture is obvious. Most of the mainly Inuit residents speak Inuktitut. Some southern Canadians may question how anyone could live this far north of the treeline. But for many Inuit, the Nuna easily answers those questions. So do the sprawling family connections that go far beyond the nuclear family, and include adoptions and naming babies for recently deceased relatives, regardless of gender. Anaanatsiaq (grandmothers) and anaana (mothers) sew with traditional and modern materials. During the school year, almost every student wears a homemade one-of-a-kind parka trimmed with fur. The dirt streets are lined with mostly single-storey houses. There are no sidewalks. Snowmobile and ATV parts lie scattered in grassless yards. It’s not uncommon to find caribou antlers or animal bones picked bare by dogs and ravens and bleached white by the sun. Kids hang out at places like the Red Top or the Northern, stores where they can buy junk food. Some youth smoke in small huddled groups by the entrances. OJ would frequent the local playgrounds, a soccer pitch and baseball diamond during summer months. The diamond is a stone’s throw from M & T’s junkyard. The town was created in 1957 with the opening of a nickel mine. The federal government’s efforts to lure Inuit away from their nomadic lifestyle and into permanent communities had begun to ramp up earlier that decade. The government promised education, jobs, health care and other services that failed to materialize. The widespread killing of sled dogs by colonial officials early in Rankin Inlet’s history robbed hunters of their transportation. The crumbling remnants of the nickel mine, now covered in graffiti, sit atop a small hill up the street from the M & T garage. The mine closed in 1963, but new mining activity outside of town has spurred the economy. Arts and crafts, like sewing, beading and pottery, have a long, celebrated history. Sports clubs flourish, hockey especially. Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk hockey player to make the NHL, is a hometown hero. But many parents worry there’s not enough for kids and youth to do, leading to substance abuse and trouble early in life. In his autobiography, Tootoo told of the alcoholism and violence that ran in his family and community. “Up in Rankin, you drink until the last drop’s gone, and then you find someone else with booze. You figure out the consequences later,” Tootoo wrote. Rankin Inlet is a semidry community with an active black market for hard liquor and various drugs. RCMP frequently seize 40-ounce hard-liquor bottles and illicit drugs. When the criminal circuit court comes to town, the docket is bloated with alcohol-fuelled offences. Between 1999 and 2017, the Violent Crime Severity Index, which shows the relative seriousness of individual offences, was nearly five times higher in Nunavut than the national average, according to Statistics Canada. The homicide rate in that same time period was almost seven times higher. That’s in line with the homicide rate of other Indigenous populations in Canada, who make up nearly one-quarter of all homicide victims yet only account for roughly five per cent of the national population. Suicide rates have been about seven times higher than the national average for years. Rates of reported sexual abuse are nine times higher than the national average, according to federal data from 2009 to 2014. One Rankin Inlet citizen remembered an autumn when five suicides left the community breathless. “You just get your breath and somebody would punch you in the gut again. And you know everybody, you feel for their family,” Mike Shouldice, a town councillor and longtime resident, said. High rates of crime, abuse and death are often found in communities affected by what academics call structural inequality. Canada’s opportunities and public resources are not equally distributed to all groups. Some groups face barriers to housing, jobs, food, justice, education and health care. Racially skewed carding in Toronto is an example of a structural inequality. In Nunavut, 40 per cent of the population lives in overcrowded homes. The territory has no university and its high school graduation rate in the last school year was 41.2 per cent. Unemployment among Inuit is far higher than the national average. Food insecurity affects seven out of 10 homes. And the lack of health-care services forced the Nunavut government to pay for 32,000 round trip flights for its 40,000 residents to receive services in southern Canada in 2016-17. These barriers mean that victims of violence often do not get the support they need, said Tanya Sharpe, a professor at the University of Toronto. That untreated pain can lead to more violence because of “this idea that hurt people hurt people,” she said. Sharpe has spent three decades working on trauma support programs for families who have experienced a homicide. Although she is new to Canada and has spent most of her career working with African-American communities in the U.S., many of her observations would be familiar to Indigenous groups in Canada. According to Sharpe’s research, African Americans in the U.S. experience on average at least 2.5 homicides of loved ones in their life times. “You begin to see individuals not even being able to breathe. They can’t catch their breath because next week or the week after there’s someone that’s been murdered,” she said of communities disproportionately impacted by homicide rates. A few months after OJ’s body was discovered, Lena said one of his best friends was heard talking and playing with OJ. “I believe in spirits,” Lena said. Almost everyone in Rankin Inlet who spoke to the Star told stories of experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. When that happens, a part of us wants to avoid or forget the horrible event. But another part refuses to forget. That tension can lead to a traumatic stress disorder, like PTSD, where those affected can be torn between reliving the trauma and, in extreme cases, amnesia. PTSD is understood to affect consciousness through four categories of symptoms: re-experiencing the event through nightmares or flashbacks; feeling jumpy, irritable or sleepless; emotional and cognitive symptoms, like depression; and avoidance. “PTSD is a normal reaction to abnormal events, ” said Allison Crawford, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto who has had a practice in the Baffin region of Nunavut for more than 10 years. “It’s the way we’d all respond if we were exposed to so many difficult and scary and overwhelming and horrifying things.” The symptoms of PTSD can overwhelm an individual’s life. While struggling with short-term memory, focus and regulating emotions, holding down a steady job can seem impossible. So too can having meaningful relationships. Or feeling joy. Any of these symptoms, especially avoidance, can lead to further, compounding symptoms, such as substance misuse. Before the arrests and in the absence of regular updates from the police, OJ’s family saw no end to their pain and trauma. “Like a lost person out on the land who’s never been found again, there’s no closure, no way to say goodbye properly,” OJ’s uncle Louis said last summer. Ray’s grief, Louis said, compounded by the day, his anger shattering some of Louis’ living-room furniture. “Like my brother says, [OJ is] not going to smile again, he’s not going to breathe, he’s not going to have another birthday, he’s not going to graduate school, he’s not going to start a family — while this other person is still out there.” Rumours rotted the community’s morale. “Close friends of mine are even being accused. It’s rabid speculation. Nobody feels safe,” said Louis. For some, OJ’s death triggered memories of their own trauma. Like John and Lucy Manilak, who live a short bike ride away in OJ’s old neighbourhood, called Area 6. The Manilaks’ son, David, was killed five years ago when he was 30. The police ruled it a homicide, but no charges have been laid. The Manilaks said they believe the police have stopped investigating. The RCMP did not respond to a request for an update on the investigation. “It would ease our pain ... if we finally knew what’s going on. That would be a big relief instead of thinking, I wonder what happened?” Lucy said from her living room couch, a double mattress on the floor in front. On the wall above her head hung family pictures, including one of David’s high school graduation, a crucifix and a decal that says “God Bless This Home.” Seven people live in this two-bedroom home. Both Lucy and John related their own stories of trauma from before David’s death: physical abuse, sexual abuse, tuberculosis quarantine in the south and suicides. John’s mother Veronica is an elder and artist whose wall-hangings are found throughout government offices in Nunavut. She made a parka and quilt for Queen Elizabeth in the 1970s. “I can’t forgive who [killed David.] It’s in me and I won’t let it go,” said Veronica, who also told of a brother lost to suicide. The Manilaks said their church community helped them grieve and heal. And when another family went through something similar, the Manilaks reached out to comfort and support them. “This is the way we started healing,” John said. Trauma is known as a disorder of memory because it changes the way our brains store memories and respond to stress. “I have so much short-term memory loss since I lost my son,” said OJ’s mom Lena, who has also experienced abuse and suicidal thoughts. “OJ used to work out with me. He used to do chin-ups with one arm. I used to work out a lot, but after I lost him, I lost everything. I was a zombie. I wouldn’t shower for days, I didn’t eat,” Lena said. Like many others in Nunavut, Lena has survived multiple traumas that began early in life. This kind of repeated and chronic trauma over a lifetime, especially if it begins in childhood, is what some experts call developmental trauma. A regular pattern of horrific events can result in “complex PTSD. Although not an official diagnosis, the idea of complex PTSD has been around since at least the 1990s and continues to gain traction in the scientific community. It aims to capture post-traumatic symptoms that go far beyond PTSD, which usually refers to a single event. “[Developmental trauma] really changes the way people can regulate their emotions ... Their identity and sense of self, their self-worth … and maybe most profoundly their … ability to see meaning in the world and experience hope and a sense of joy and connectedness to others,” said Allison Crawford, the U of T psychiatrist. “It’s the accumulation within the individual over a lifetime, but also within their family history over a lifetime, and within their community history, and that also has impact on the way an individual and a family and a community are able to respond to future traumatic events,” she said. “You get a kind of collective distress or suffering, and impact on community-level memory. I think that our models of medicine, western medicine ... really don’t capture or understand that accumulation.” There is growing biological evidence that intergenerational trauma impacts brain structure and gene expression, said Crawford. “There are all kinds of animal studies now looking at the offspring of animals several generations down the line where an animal is exposed to a stressful event, and it’s led to changes not only in their own brain but also changes that were seen two or three generations down the line.” Collective, untreated trauma over generations can lead to a breakdown in community cohesion, Crawford said, with citizens “either participating in hurting other people or feeling hurt by people.” But there’s a flip side to intergenerational trauma. It’s what Crawford refers to as intergenerational strength. Connecting to your culture, language, community and family can heal people from trauma in ways that medical professionals cannot, said Crawford. Helen Iguptak is a slight Inuk elder with a calm, quiet voice who laughs often. She has been making art and crafts since she made her first doll in residential school in Chesterfield Inlet as a child. That first doll, out of cloth, yarn and human hair, started Helen on a creative and healing path. Today she’s known around the world for her dolls dressed in intricate and miniature traditional clothing. Her laugh is soft, tumbling — almost a giggle — followed by a sharp intake of breath. In her small bedroom, the blue walls lined with shelves of books and craft supplies, she works on a pair of beaded wall hangings. Eight people live in this two-bedroom bungalow. Helen remembered when, growing up out on the land, people were dying of hunger and sickness. The government transferred her family to Baker Lake. From there, she remembered the boat coming and taking her and other kids away to residential school. “I could see my mom standing right in front of the tent, my father close to the beach. I think when I couldn’t see them anymore I finally stopped crying,” she said. Helen remembered joy in surprising places. Like her first breakfast after being taken from her parents. “One of the kids dipped their crackers in the hot tea and it expanded. We were amazed — oh, how did it grow?” Helen laughed. Or like when she was reunited with her parents after her year away at residential school. “I went crazy. I went on top of the bed with my boots on. Jumped on it, jumped to the floor. Just nuts.” Sewing, beading, drawing, pottery — any art or craft helps Helen cope. “It keeps your mind busy so that you don’t think about the bad stuff that happened in the past.” And Helen firmly believes in forgiving those who have caused her pain. “If you don’t forgive, it’s an ongoing hurt ... Forget it, we’re not going to turn the clocks back and correct everything. You just have to keep moving. There’s still other people who love you and you love them so, why bother to worry about it?” If she had her way, Helen said, she’d live out on the land again, without any clocks or money. Forgiveness and healing often do not come easily. On Oct. 8, 2018, police made their first arrest in the case of OJ Taparti’s death: Glen Kadlak Jr., a local 21-year-old, was charged with murder. Four days later, police arrested a second suspect, a youth who cannot be identified. Neither case has been tried in court. Legal aid lawyers for the suspects declined a request for comment. OJ’s dad says the arrests brought some relief, but he and OJ’s siblings still miss “the little guy.” “It’s hard. I cry just missing him,” Ray said. “The thing is, the story didn’t end there,” said Harry Towtongie, the town’s deputy mayor. “I think they’re expecting to do more arrests.” The RCMP would not confirm whether they are still investigating. “I forgive them,” Lena said of those arrested. She’s unsure if she can continue living in Rankin Inlet. After his final interview about OJ in August 2018, Louis Taparti — well-known throughout Nunavut as a radio personality, interpreter, advocate for Inuit rights and lover of music — reached for his guitar and sang, Where do the Children Play? by Cat Stevens. I know we’ve come a long way We’re changing day to day But tell me, where do the children play? Louis put the guitar down beside the couch and reached for a pack of cigarettes. “I don’t know if the kids are still out there playing, without a care in the world, without having to look past their shoulder,” Louis said. “I don’t know.” Just a couple days after the first arrest, Louis died of cancer. Days before his death, a video circulated Nunavut Facebook pages of Louis singing, lying in a hospital bed in a gown, a guitar on his belly.
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