Thousands of Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland in Canada comprising communities in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec, and Labrador, are facing housing issues.
A new report from Statistics Canada shows that little has improved over the past five years and, in some cases, has worsened.
Some Inuit residents complained of molds, leaky pipes, plumbing, and sewage problems, deteriorating foundations, crumbling floors, and holes in walls that have persisted for decades, causing the indigenous people health problems. They blamed the federal government for not doing enough to resolve these issues.
The article on CFJC says that Inuit housing problems like molds and overcrowding has been documented since the Federal government established the first permanent settlements in the North in the 1950s.
The 2021 census also shows that of the 49,000 Inuit living in Inuit Nunagat, one-third were living in dwellings requiring major repairs – the figure is 1.2% more since 2016. More than half of them also live in crowded housing, 1.2% less than five years before.
A 2017 report from the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples describing the housing crisis in Inuit Nunangat calls on the federal government to provide stable, long-term funding and other measures to address the problems.
According to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an organization representing Inuit in Canada, more than $3 billion over the next decade is needed to build new housing and repair existing ones. The Federal government budget, however, is far from the above estimate.
“The 2022 federal budget promised $150 million between 2022 and 2024 to support affordable housing and related infrastructure in the North, including $60 million each to N.W.T. and Nunavut. It also included $845 million over seven years for housing in Inuit communities and planned to co-develop and launch a northern, urban, and rural Indigenous housing strategy.”
Inadequate housing conditions have been linked to the spread of diseases and illnesses, poor mental health, family violence, and underachievement. A 2019 study finds that Inuit Communities are also with high tuberculosis rates.
Other factors have also contributed to Canada’s housing problems, such as the cold, climate change, lack of transport infrastructure, a short construction season, and high costs.
Fixing the housing problems of the Inuit people in Canada will mean more federal support and budget. According to the Toronto Star, adequate housing is a universal human right recognized by Canada’s National Housing Strategy Act as a matter of policy.
It explains that “Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right of Inuit to be actively involved in developing and administering their housing programs. And yet most federal housing programs are crafted using southern models that marginalize Inuit.”