According to current judicial statistics, nearly all criminal acts committed in the villages of Nunavik are related to drug and alcohol problems. Since there are no prisons in this part of Québec, residents who are found guilty of crimes are sent to the prison in Saint-Jérôme to be incarcerated. At this time, they make up a quarter of all inmates there. The Inuit community and the Portage therapeutic community share a number of core values, such as peer support, sharing, and living one day at a time, and this has facilitated an association between the two. Portage has recently established a rehabilitation program adapted to the needs of the Inuit community who are serving time in the Saint-Jérôme prison, with the support of the Makivik Society and its Ungaluk Division.
Over the last few months, Portage staff members have visited the Saint-Jérôme prison three times a week, meeting with a dozen Inuit inmates who have volunteered for the program. The sessions seek to develop participants’ personal and social competencies, and to help them learn how to better manage their feelings, how to better understand situations in order to react in a more reasonable manner, and how to ask for help. The program helps them better understand the fundamental causes of their drug and alcohol abuse, so that they can work through their issues. Participants have been benefitting significantly from these sessions, and those who are interested in pursuing their substance abuse rehabilitation can transition into residential therapy at the Portage centre in Prévost.
Josi Nappatuk, who completed the residential component of his rehabilitation treatment at Portage Prévost just a year ago, describes his experience at Portage in the video below. Now back with his family in Puvirnituk, Josi has become the Complaints and Quality Assurance Commissioner at the Inuulitsivik health and social services centre, that provides services to the entire coast of Hudson’s Bay (Inuulitsivik means “the place where we get well” in the Inuktitut language). He also serves as a proud ambassador of the Portage Program to the Inuit community.
“There are a lot of people who cannot deal with their feelings, their past. If we don’t take care of what we have done in the past and come to terms with it, and learn to forgive ourselves, it’s just going to be really hard to deal with,” explains Josi. “Portage gave me the tools and the know-how to be able to start dealing with my feelings and to be able to trust people and have confidence in them, to express and explore my feelings. That’s what made the difference for me here.”