Covid-19 cases have exploded in the Kivalliq. 

It would not take much for infection to spread. It remains of utmost importance that Nunavummiut follow the directions of chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson and his team to keep physical distance and wash hands often.

It would be a large stretch to say Covid-19 has done any good at all for Nunavut or Canada, but what it has done is highlight the shortcomings.

The housing situation in our territory can only be described as a crisis, one that has largely flown under the radar of federal politicians for decades. There is a severe lack of housing in general. Most Nunavummiut do not have enough income for private residences and are forced into public housing. That public housing is demonstrably inadequate across all three regions of Nunavut. Common complaints include mould, poor ventilation and insulation and lacking in basic maintenance.

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated issued a 200-plus page report in October detailing these critical issues. The report indicates, among many other problems, that 41 per cent of Nunavut’s housing is in need of major repair.

There are countless specific examples of housing woes to point to, but one of the most recent ones came when MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq went on a housing tour in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq. What she found, unsurprisingly, was “mould boxes” falling into disrepair.

“The extent that the Canadian government has allowed this to continue is disgusting,” she said in a past interview with Nunavut News’ sister publication, Kivalliq News. 

But the more common and more detrimental issue is overcrowding.

During Qaqqaq’s tour, it was highlighted that every community she visited had at least 100 people on a wait list for public housing. 

Instead of families finding adequate places to live, they are forced to reside in cramped conditions with extended family and multiple generations.

NTI’s aforementioned study indicates that Nunavut has the highest rate of overcrowded housing in Canada, and the largest proportion of housing in need of major repair – nearly six times the national average. The same report goes on to highlight how these deplorable conditions, coupled with other factors like regular access to drinkable water, will be detrimental factors in fighting Covid-19.

The chickens have already come home to roost as the chief public health officer confirmed on Nov. 25 that overcrowded homes are partly to blame for spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s a major factor, probably one of the bigger contributors to the spread,” Patterson said. “It certainly aggravates the problem.”

Housing is much more than four walls. It’s the foundation for one’s life and should be a place where someone is safe and comfortable anywhere in Canada, including the North.

Covid-19 has laid bare Nunavut’s housing issues and infrastructure gaps for the world to see. The problem has been studied to death. It is time for much greater action.

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