Federal Housing Advocate Marie-Josée Houle, centre, President of Nunatsiavut Johannes Lampe, left, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk speak to reporters about a new report on “deplorable” housing conditions in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut on Monday in Ottawa. (Screenshot from Zoom)Madalyn Howitt

Housing conditions that Inuit in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut live in are a violation of human rights and a “staggering failure” by all levels of government to invest in adequate accommodation for Inuit, says Canada’s federal housing advocate.

Marie-Josée Houle, the country’s first federal housing advocate, travelled to communities in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut in October 2022 to hear directly from families living in overcrowded, dangerous and unstable housing conditions.

Her findings from those visits are compiled in a new report Houle calls “a wake-up call to governments at all levels.”

“Adequate housing has been enshrined in Canadian law and this recognition of housing as a human right means that there is no excuse for inaction,” she said in her report.

Houle said that on her visits to Nunavut as well as Nain in Newfoundland and Labrador, she heard and saw how the distress caused by living in “deplorable” and unfit housing circumstances takes a “serious toll on people’s physical, mental and emotional health.”

“This disastrous outcome is a direct result of colonialism and the shocking inability of these various orders of government over decades to invest in Inuit human rights and to uphold them,” she said.

The report also cited the impacts of inadequate housing on people’s mental health, especially youth, the spread of tuberculosis and the effects of mould on health.

The report makes 10 recommendations for improved Nunavut housing and another 10 for housing in Nunatsiavut.

Recommendations for Nunavut include:

  • The federal government should engage with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the regional Inuit associations to co-design and develop housing programs appropriate to Nunavut’s logistics, capacity needs, and climate;
  • The Government of Nunavut should consider how it can increase the authority and decision-making power local housing organizations have over the delivery of housing in their communities;
  • The federal government should end inequity between Nunavut and the rest of Inuit Nunangat in its contributions to funding for housing.

Houle spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Monday alongside NTI president Aluki Kotierk and Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe.

“One thing is clear, these communities don’t need to be studied because nothing is getting better. If anything, things have gotten worse,” Houle said.

In her report, she cited data from the 2021 census showing nearly one-third of the close to 49,000 Inuit in Inuit Nunangat were living in dwellings in need of major repair — a 1.2 per cent increase from 2016 census data.

According to further 2021 census data, 53 per cent of Inuit in Inuit Nunangat live in crowded housing, Houle wrote.

Kotierk reiterated that the report covers housing issues Inuit have been fighting to fix for decades.

“None of this is new for Inuit. We live with it,” she said.

“My hope is that this report is compelling enough that it will stir in the hearts of Canadians, fellow Canadians, the desire to act on this and that fellow Canadians will also communicate this to the politicians, the federal government, the territorial governments, the provincial governments, about how urgent this is,” Kotierk said.

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout said in a statement Monday that Houle’s report reiterated “what Inuit have been saying for years, that they need urgent action to address the housing crisis.”

“People in Nunavut and Labrador are living in overcrowded homes, getting sick with tuberculosis, and using duct tape to repair their homes,” said Idlout.

She called on the federal government to provide immediate funding to build and repair the homes Indigenous communities need.

By Madalyn Howitt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 28, 2023 at 05:50

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunatsiaq News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated