No running water in Nunavik: teachers call for help

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No running water in Nunavik: teachers call for help

The water supply in several Nunavik villages has broken down. deteriorated in recent months, according to a report obtained by Radio-Canada.

A student from the Kativik Ilisarnilirniq School Board in Nunavik.

Dozens of Nunavik primary and secondary school employees denounce living conditions in the North, in the name of student well-being, as water supply difficulties have deteriorated, they say, in recent months. This is revealed by a union report that Radio-Canada was able to consult.

In Nunavik, 13 of the 14 villages do not have a water and sewer system. The transport of drinking water, like the removal of waste water, is done by tanker truck.

For months, in addition to the pandemic and the ;a particularly harsh winter, according to the regional authorities, the problems accumulate: broken or damaged infrastructures (pipes, trucks, tanks), shortage of manpower to drive the tankers and… insufficient tank trucks. In short, water transport is lagging behind.

A drinking water reservoir in Inukjuak.

Not only is the distribution of drinking water slowed down, forcing residents and workers to use unfiltered water that must be boiled – and sometimes resulting in contaminated water being ingested by accident – but the accumulation of sewage in the tanks causes the interruption of the running water service. Thus, the toilets are no longer functional and washing with running water is no longer possible.

Dozens of employees of the Kativik Ilisarnilirniq School Board denounce living conditions described as disastrous in a report by the Centrale des unions du Québec (CSQ). The findings of this internal document, which should be made public shortly, have been corroborated by Radio-Canada.

The Kativik Ilisarnilirniq School Board is located in Nunavik.

In total, the testimonies of 75 people were collected. They come from teachers and support staff members of the Association of Northern Quebec Employees (AENQ-CSQ) as well as members of the Union of Professional Education Staff of Nunavik and West of Montreal (SPPENOM- CSQ).

At AENQ, two-thirds of the 950 union members in Nunavik are Inuit. Slightly less than half of the 130 SPPENOM-CSQ specialists are also Inuit. Here are some of the comments collected by the CSQ.

The bacteria spread due to lack of water are countless. (…) It is [primary to be able] to wash your hands after using the toilet, writes one person.

Students contract skin infections, laments another employee.

Gastro, COVID and influenza epidemic, but no water to clean up children’s vomit, no water to take a cool bath (. ..) when we have a fever, denounces another union member.

Water supply problems are piling up in Nunavik.

I can't wash my child's bottles. I can't do laundry on weekends (I have two young children, which still generates a fair amount of laundry). I spend the weekend with stools in my toilet. (…) The water was contaminated at some point and the whole family had diarrhea and/or vomiting for 2-3 days, writes a fourth employee of the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq School Board, among dozens of comments that Radio-Canada was able to consult.

Our people can't go to the bathroom anymore, pull the chain, they have to use boilers to relieve themselves, they can't wash their clothes, wash the dishes… You know, in the North, it's not. is not uncommon to have 6 or 7 people in the same house, underlines in an interview Larry Imbeault, president of the Association of employees of Northern Quebec (AENQ-CSQ).

Problems related to water transport have led to about fifteen school closures in six villages in 2021-2022: Ivujivik, Kangirsuk, Inukjuak, Puvirnituq, Akulivik and Aupaluk.

These figures would most likely be higher if almost half of our establishments had not closed last year due to COVID-19 during the months of October, November, December and January, says the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq School Board, which says it supports school staff and denounces this ongoing situation.

Jeannie Dupuis is assistant director general at the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq School Board.

We have to stop taking this with a grain of salt. (…) It is the basic needs of students that are not being met, deplores Jeannie Dupuis, assistant director general at the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq School Board. For school staff, it's getting harder and harder, she adds.

While the dropout rate has averaged around 80% for the past four years, the region is grappling with the largest teacher shortage in the entire province: 65 positions are still vacant for a population of 3,300 students.

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As a comparison, the staff shortage still affecting the Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) amounts to 24 unfilled positions for 110,600 students.

The result is that we cannot teach all the compulsory courses. Sometimes it's French for example, or mathematics. If you don't have a teacher, you simply can't give the course, explains Jeannie Dupuis.

“We are Quebecers too.

— Thomassie Mangiok, Director of the Nuvviti Center in Ivujivik

The consequences, I live them, I manage them, I see them. You never know if you will be able to provide services to students. Yet education is important, right? asks Thomassie Mangiok, director of the Nuvviti centre, the elementary and secondary school in Ivujivik.

Thomassie Mangiok, director from the Nuvviti Center, the primary and secondary school in Ivujivik.

In this village of 350 inhabitants, contamination has multiplied since a breakage occurred this winter at the water treatment station. Currently, the inhabitants draw their water from a river. They have to boil it. In the process, they still sometimes ingest water containing bacteria.

The director reminds that schools, in addition to providing education for children, are also, in many cases, places of protection.

We have a system with a water filter, so when students are struggling to get good water at home, they come to school to get it. When the school closes, they don't have that anymore, he explains, referring to the sewage tanks which, when full (when no tanker trucks x27;is available to withdraw), lead to the school closing.

Ikaarvik school in Puvirnituq.

It's frustrating… Our young people should have the same opportunities as everywhere in Quebec. We feel left out. As if we weren't Quebecers too, he said.

Like the school board, Carolane Desmarais, president of SPPENOM-CSQ, the union representing some 130 specialists; psychologists, speech therapists and remedial pedagogues, for example, point out that not only is attracting staff increasingly difficult in this context, but also ensuring their retention.

What' what we hear more and more is that people who have worked in Nunavik for a long time are contacting us and saying: “I don't know if I'm going to continue,” she confides.

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There are currently zero psychologists in Nunavik, gives Carolane Desmarais as an example.

Iguarsivik School in Puvirnituq.

It's time for our elected officials to take the issue seriously. serious. It's fun to see them go up to the North to have their picture taken, it looks good in the newspapers, but it's time for the problem to be resolved, pleads Larry Imbeault, president of the Association des employees of Northern Quebec.

It does not make sense that such situations are trivialized, as if it were normal because it is in the north. Elsewhere in Quebec, such situations would never be tolerated. Water is essential, period, argues Anne Dionne, vice-president of the CSQ.

I cannot believe that in 2022, we are not yet able to offer decent living conditions to these communities and ensure their dignity. And that the students pay the additional cost, because the schools have to close. It is frankly shocking!, adds the vice-president.

Interpellated by Radio-Canada, the office of the outgoing Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, recalls Quebec's desire to support regional authorities, particularly in the emergency dispatch additional tanker trucks.

The Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Habitation (MAMH) pays sums to the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) under the ISURRUUTIIT program [an infrastructure construction and purchase program; equipment for the villages of the North, Editor's note]. (…) It is the KRG that then manages the sums and how they will be administered in collaboration with the 14 northern villages, indicates Mathieu Durocher, press officer in the office of the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière (archives).

Minister Lafrenière visited the 14 villages of Nunavik [this spring] (…) and was able to see for himself the technical challenges faced by certain communities, he adds.

The cabinet specifies that negotiations are also underway to renew the $120 million envelope spread over six years and intended for water infrastructure, which is coming to an end.

“We are obviously continuing to monitor the situation very closely. »

Cabinet of the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs

Contacted by Radio-Canada, the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) has reserved its comments on the ongoing negotiations, but confirms that it will have more flexibility in the allocation of subsidies.

Without throwing stones at certain northern villages where the water supply problems are greater, the KRG wanted to clarify that if it provides technical assistance to the 14 northern villages , each of them is autonomous.

A tank truck in front of a hotel in Kuujjuaq.

We try to help them, but the whole issue of making sure that maintenance is done, that minor repairs are done, is also the responsibility of each village, says Paul Parsons, who was director of municipal public works before become Deputy Director General of ARK.

Mr. Parsons says many moves are underway. New tankers should arrive by boat in the coming weeks, he said.

In Nunavik, only the village of Kuujjuarapik benefits from a sewer and sewer system. ;aqueduct, the result of a collaboration between Inuit and Crees.

A view of a drill used to make 15-meter holes in Inukjuak. These are equipped with probes to estimate the state of the permafrost.

However, on the territory of this community, located much further south, the permafrost and the bedrock do not are not issues.

Elsewhere it is very complex. You can't just go dig 15 feet underground and install a sewage and water system in permafrost and bedrock, says Paul Parsons.

Does he want more generous subsidies? I don't want to comment on the current negotiations, but the labor shortage is affecting the construction field and here too everything is more expensive. It is clear that we are doing much less with the same amounts, he says.

Among the dozens of comments consulted by Radio-Canada, a union member implores the authorities to act: It becomes difficult for us to recommend other [teachers] to come and work here… and it becomes difficult for us to stay here. We need a 21st century solution.

With the collaboration of Claudiane Samson, Sarah Leavitt, Eilis Quinn and Felix Lebel

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