Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq had strong words for the federal government in the midst of a housing tour of the territory to document dire housing conditions.
“The extent that the Canadian government has allowed this to continue is disgusting,” she said in an interview with Kivalliq News. “It grinds my gears because we are the first peoples of this country.”
Since the beginning of August, Qaqqaq has visited three communities in the Kitikmeot and two more in the Kivalliq, including Coral Harbour and Naujaat.
The NDP MP is hoping to draw attention to the housing situation and planning on returning to Parliament with the information she gathers.
She told Kivalliq News the conditions in some of the homes she has visited have been appalling.
“Some of the homes I’ve been to I’m just describing as mould boxes. You can smell it as soon as you walk through the door,” she said in an interview.
“People try to keep things disinfected and clean. But if you have a 12-foot high ceiling that’s leaking, how can you deal with that?”
The poor conditions are exacerbated by overcrowding, which many Nunavummiut are only too familiar with. The issue goes far beyond houses that are falling into disrepair.
She said every community she has been to so far has at least 100 people on a wait list for public housing.
In Coral Harbour, local government officials told her that 130 people out of a population of 900 are on the public housing wait list. She said that those numbers don’t include children, spouses or dependents. (The office of the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation Patterk Netser contacted Nunavut News stating the number of people on the Coral Harbour public housing list was currently 100 – Editor.)
“We’re not capturing the entirety of people that are in an overcrowded place.”
One of the problems with fixing the issue is that the housing crisis has become so normalized. She said if these conditions persisted in the south something would have already been done to fix it.
“There is normality in the challenges we face and the barriers we have to overcome,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to fight for housing.”
The impact of the of lack of housing is having a direct impact on the physical and mental health of people throughout the territory, she said.
Not only does overcrowding affect quality of life, the high level of sexual abuse and physical abuse people experience means that many are forced to live with their abusers.
“If we could adjust the housing crisis, we are talking about dozens, if not hundreds of people not having to live with their abusers.
“We’re talking about kids not seeing abuse when they are growing up. Teenagers getting the space they need to develop. There would be a decrease in death and violence and an increase in education and community wellness.”
Qaqqaq pointed to the recent death of an Iqaluit man whose makeshift shack caught fire last week.
“People are being pushed to extremes to stay in shacks that aren’t insulated,” she said. “His death 100 per cent could have been prevented.”
Equally disheartening for Qaqqaq is the fact that when new housing is built, the contract often goes to southern companies who hire southern workers.
“All you have to do is stand outside a building that is being worked on and see there are no locals there,” she said. “We’re seeing people making the money here and taking it somewhere else. What part of that makes sense? Where are the training and development and initiatives for Inuit?”
She said she would like to see training programs and incentives for Inuit companies to fill the gap in affordable housing.
“We should have Inuit-owned constructions companies, from administrators, to the carpenters and the plumbers, all the way to the manager.”