The people of Nunavik are largely dissatisfied with the social services in their communities, according to an official 1997 survey obtained by The Nation.

The Inuit feel social services don’t listen to their needs, don’t offer enough programs, they don’t trust some of the social workers and there is a language barrier.

The survey was conducted for the Nunavik Health Board in all 14 Inuit communities. It was based on in-depth interviews with 95 people.

The study’s authors were two former Nunavik Health Board employees, Marc Riopel, who is a social worker, and Jobie Weetaluktuk, an information officer.

The results show widespread dissatisfaction with how the health board’s social-services department handles growing social problems, like suicide.

Many community members complained of an “absence of programs, especially for the elderly,” said the survey. Others expressed a “lack of confidence” in the social workers and said because of this they felt uncomfortable going to them with problems.

Lack of confidentiality was another concern, especially in one village where a community worker “has the habit of speaking about clients over the radio.” The clients weren’t named, but the worker gave details of their behaviour “to provide examples of how not to behave.”

People in one community “criticized both the community worker and the organization of social services, which seem to ‘sleep rather than intervene.’”

In Salluit, one person declared, “I have never met anyone satisfied with the services!” In Akulivik, “some say the services do not respond to the needs, with proof being the high number of complaints related to social services.”

Some social workers lacked knowledge of both Inuktitut and English, the most commonly spoken languages. Another problem: “a lack of information,” which the report said “leads to negative effects among the population, including mistrust of services.”

The report made 23 recommendations for changes in the social-services system. Some were followed, but many were not, according to current and former health board officials.

The study also said similar concerns have been expressed in no less than eight different major reports going back to 1982. These earlier reports also made many recommendations that were never followed.

In 1982, a report said there was a “lack of service planning and coordination in the territory. This situation represents a major deficiency in the adequate organization of primary health care in the region and needs to be rectified.”

The situation wasn’t corrected; today, former health workers still complain that poor planning is a problem.

In 1985, a Quebec government study said there was a “lack of training and supervision of Native personnel” – another problem that still exists today.

A 1990 report said Inuit community workers were marginalized by the system, which “favoured their passive subordination in the bureaucratic organization.”

In 1991, the Nunavik Health Board held a meeting to get feedback from the people on its services. Inuit community members said social-services workers “were so involved and preoccupied by crisis situations that they neglect work in prevention.

“Community workers lack training and support, they feel exhausted and alone and, during the worst moments, powerless,” the study found.

A 1995 report said all the reports of the past 10 years hadn’t led to any changes, and that the same problems still existed.

Jean Dupuis, chairman of the Nunavik Health Board, did not return several calls. Minnie Grey, the board’s executive director, was away at a conference in Norway and also couldn’t be reached.