‘The infrastructure gap directly contributes to poverty and lowers the quality of life for Nunavut Inuit’

The Issue: Critical infrastructure
We Say: Keep fighting the good fight

A scathing review of Nunavut’s infrastructure deficit was released during Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s (NTI) annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay Oct. 20 to 22.

The report, Nunavut’s Infrastructure Gap, comprehensively lays out 18 key areas where Nunavummiut are left behind when compared to the rest of the country and should be required reading for all who aspire to higher office in the territory and beyond.

NTI President Aluki Kotierk writes in the introduction “Inuit envision a time where, like any other Canadian, we can take for granted that our basic infrastructure needs are met and surpassed.”

The organization is to be commended for the hard work that went into compiling such a resource in the spirit of cooperation with federal and territorial partners to address 18 critical areas that impact economic, health and educational opportunities for Nunavut Inuit.

As the report states, “the infrastructure gap directly contributes to poverty and lowers the quality of life for Nunavut Inuit. It is felt in food insecurity, overcrowded housing and limited economic opportunity.”

A lack of critical infrastructure forces families to be separated in many heartbreaking circumstances: a new birth, an Elder who can no longer be cared for at home, a family member who must fly south for health care or addictions treatments, family members with disabilities choosing between remaining at home or leaving for a larger centre where they can better access services.

The report also argues “Inuit social and cultural well-being and the continued importance of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit also depends on appropriate infrastructure. Article 33 of the Nunavut Agreement emphasizes the rights of Inuit to cultural heritage in Nunavut and the importance of institutions and infrastructure to support that role.”

With no museum to house and display collections of Inuit heritage, the Government of Nunavut funds institutions in the south to hold Inuit artifacts, such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which does a fantastic job promoting Inuit culture, but still caters to a southern audience.

On the other hand, Ottawa’s funding commitment to get projects like the Grays Bay Road and Port shovel-ready is another positive step in closing the gap.

It’s been often stated that the problems facing this young territory are both complicated and interconnected. “Nunavut’s overall lack of appropriate infrastructure makes everything more difficult, more expensive, or both. This makes it more challenging to close the gap, even where there are innovative solutions. Infrastructure gaps do not exist in silos, instead they intersect and overlap, amplifying the impact of each gap in a combined experience.”

The housing gap, for example, directly affects both health and education prospects of young Nunavummiut.
MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq spoke of crowded, mould-ridden homes following her tour of the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions earlier in the year.

“This NTI report just confirms what I witnessed,” she said. “The Nunavut housing corporation is severely underfunded by the federal government … adequate housing is the least that can be done after years of federal government neglect, colonization and oppression.”

“I think anything that helps us draw a better roadmap towards how we address that issue is positive,” said Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal.

Let’s sharpen those pencils and get sketching.

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