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Governments blamed for Inuit housing problems

Alexandre Shields Le Devoir Part of the village of Kangiqsujuaq, a northern village in Nunavik, located 1,800 kilometers north of Montreal < p>Federal housing advocate, Marie-Josée Houle, criticizes all levels of government in Canada for not respecting the right of Inuit to housing and, therefore, denying their human rights.

< p>“The housing conditions in which Inuit live are the direct result of colonialism and a resounding failure of successive federal, provincial and territorial governments over several decades,” says a new report by Ms. Houle.

She adds: “The level of distress cannot be underestimated, nor can the consequences that being homeless or in precarious housing has on physical, mental and emotional health. »

The right to housing was recognized by Parliament in 2019 through the National Housing Strategy Act, which also appointed a Federal Housing Advocate to ensure the government acts to make this right a reality.

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For Inuit, the right to housing means security of tenure, availability of basic services, affordability and culturally appropriate housing.

Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., said that none of Ms. Houle's discoveries were new to the Inuit.

She hopes this time Canadians will be forced to consider the report's findings, such as how inadequate housing in the north can affect a person's ability to succeed, complete their education or take care of their health .

She also highlighted the high number of young people within the Inuit population.


“Imagine if we received support so that each of us could flourish and how much we would contribute to Canada as a whole,” she said.

Unfortunately, Inuit are currently being left behind, she said, struggling to make ends meet instead of thriving, taking turns sleeping in crowded homes, leaving school early and, in the worst case scenario, ending their lives.

“The lack of adequate and affordable housing in the north is unacceptable,” Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said on Monday, adding that the problem is “even more acute” in traditional Inuit communities.

He recalled that his government set aside $845 million in its 2022 budget to help combat the crisis, and added that he met with the Federal Housing Defender and other stakeholders on Monday to discuss the report. /p>

“Our government is committed to continuing the important work with our Indigenous and Northern partners to address our colonial past and the chronic underfunding of infrastructure and housing in the region by previous governments. »

On the ground

To prepare the observation report on Inuit housing published Monday, Marie-Josée Houle traveled to northern communities at the invitation of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national organization that represents Inuit in Canada. The non-partisan watchdog she leads traveled to hold discussions with community members and leaders from Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, Labrador, in October last year.

His report paints a grim picture of life for Inuit in the north. It refers to a person in Nunatsiavut who burned down parts of their home to keep warm during the coldest winter months, as well as people in Labrador who sleep in their cars or tents.

She discovered that in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, which has a population of just over 8,000 according to the latest 2021 census, the rate of homelessness was four times higher than in Toronto and Vancouver in 2021-2022.

The census found that more than half of Inuit living on their traditional territories were confined to overcrowded housing and nearly a third lived in housing requiring major repairs.

However, those who own a home in Nunatsiavut are not necessarily in a better position, as Marie-Josée Houle found that there was a lack of accessible and affordable mortgages, as well as home or renter's insurance.

According to the Nunatsiavut Executive Council, 78% of the population does not have access to home insurance.

The same problems apply to Inuit in Nunavut, where mortgages are tied to buildings and not to the land. This can lead homeowners to be left with high debts and no equity if their home burns or is seriously damaged, the report notes.

The ravages of cold

The housing advocate reported that some Inuit do not have clean water, sanitation or reliable access to heat or energy for their homes. Plumbing fixtures left in disrepair have led to persistent leaks that have increased water costs for some Inuit homeowners and led to humidity levels that create an environment conducive to harmful mold.

For those with access to oil furnaces, the cost of maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature can cost up to $57 per day in Nunatsiavut or up to $500 per week in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, an expense that some Inuit cannot afford to pay.

In many northern communities, new housing is simply not being built, Marie-Josée Houle also noted. His report says the hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, with a population of 1,500, has not seen new construction in a decade. As of March 2022, a single waiting list for public housing included 120 families, some of whom had been registered for more than 10 years.

In Rankin Inlet, where just under 3,000 people live, 15 units were built in 2022 and 20 units are planned for 2023, the report said.


The lack of housing is particularly difficult for those who need mental health and substance use supports. These problems are compounded by the high cost of living, high unemployment rates and lack of access to child care.

The federal housing advocate also reported that overcrowding in Inuit housing leads to the spread of tuberculosis and other viruses. Between 2015 and 2018, the rate of tuberculosis in traditional Inuit territories was more than 300 times higher than that of non-Indigenous Canadians.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Lori Idlout, who represents Nunavut and is her party's spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous relations, hopes that Marie-Josée Houle's report will reignite the conversation on this growing problem. and more serious.


Ms. Idlout told the story of a young pregnant woman from Nunavut who knew she would not be able to find housing for years. The woman chose to commit suicide instead of living with this reality.

And the battle with the federal government to remedy the situation is difficult and has been going on for years, she adds.


The Houle report includes a multitude of recommendations. It calls on the federal government to transfer jurisdiction over Inuit housing programs to Inuit governments and for all levels of government to recognize housing as a human right.

The report also states that Governments should work with regional Inuit organizations to develop addiction treatment plans and dedicate adequate funding to access safe, adequate and affordable housing for all.

MP Idlout believes that the The federal government “needs to understand how these investments could actually help Indigenous people become the healthy, productive adults they want to be so they can contribute to Canada's economy.” Because that’s what we want to do.”

Corrected version. The Canadian Press wrote that the hamlet of Pangnirtung was located in New Brunswick. It's actually in Nunavut.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116