The graves have been filled and the political dignitaries have gone; but for this northern community of 700, the grief is still very young. That grieving will continue as it has since early New Year’s day when an avalanche killed nine members of the community, including five children. The disaster happened as many were celebrating the holiday at the local school.
Rev. Canon Ben Arreak arrived in the community in the days before the January 7 funeral. A resident of neighbouring Kuujjuaq, he is the Anglican incumbent for the five-point parish that includes Kangiqsualujjuaq. The parish is located in northern Quebec, on Ungava Bay.
Mr. Arreak is ministering to the five families that lost relatives and to the whole community, which is largely Anglican. (St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, the only church in Kangiqsualujjuaq, has been cordoned off because avalanche experts have declared it in an unsafe area.)
By day, Mr. Arreak visits families. At night, the community comes together to pray.
“Bit by bit, they’ve started the healing process,” said Mr. Arreak. “They’ve started to cope with the tragedy and their hurt feelings. They’ve started to express their feelings, and once they start to talk, the healing begins.”
In the coming days, said the priest, they will be scouting the community for a suitable place of worship until the snow melts, when they can relocate the church to a safer spot. The funeral for the avalanche’s victims was held in the municipal garage, since no other building could accommodate all the people.
The school, where almost half the community was gathered New Year’s eve when the avalanche hit, has also been closed, leaving the children to attend classes in a few portables.
While the community’s immediate relief needs have been met, the diocese of the Arctic is accepting financial donations to help bring in lay readers and catechists from the neighbouring communities to provide grief counselling.
“We’ll stay there until the people of Kangiqsualujjuaq say ëWe can do it now,'” said Mr. Arreak.
The money collected may also be used to help relocate the church, if insurance does not cover all the costs.
Donations may be sent to the Diocese of the Arctic, Box 1454, 4910 51st Street, Yellowknife NT, X1A 2P1.
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