The issue: Following the money
We say: Support the people

The legislative assembly has given us plenty to talk about this week.

First, we have a push for changes to existing income assistance rules, something that has been brought up time and again, to a roomful of privileged folk – some of whom seem to be out of touch with what it would be like trying to live off less than $30,000 per year.

It’s exhausting to be told that you’re not doing enough to seek employment in a community with no jobs, or that you’re not making a “productive choice,” as it’s labelled by the Department of Family Services.

Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie said, “I don’t think as a government we should be constantly treating residents as irresponsible, as we know that most Inuit today, at this time, are facing hardships in trying to maintain stability.”

While Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik is not wrong in saying it’s difficult for a department to make any changes with six ministers over eight years taking the portfolio, it’s also not an excuse.

People need help. It arguably may not be the place of the government to create jobs in small communities, but it is the GN’s job to ensure that people do not fall through the cracks in a system that was meant to support them.

One of the most boggling aspects of the system is to penalize people and have monetary gifts counted against their income. How is it remotely helpful to get even less money next month because you had a family member who was kind and lucky enough to be able to give you the extra support that the department would not?

Then we get to the new Civil Forfeitures Office, which seeks to recover the “proceeds of crime.” It’s unclear what he means when Justice Minister George Hickes speaks of confiscating and disposing of illegally gained property. Will the GN turn around and sell these items to law-abiding citizens and turn a profit to pay for this new office?

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak urged the government to ensure that anyone who stands accused will know what their rights are. It’s hard to tell at this point what those rights are.

The spheres of income support and property confiscation may not seem related at first glance, but it all boils down to people not having enough and trying to make money however they can. Bootleggers sow chaos in communities to get what they want, while others are trying to get what they can from a government agency that judges their every choice against whether they are worthy of help.

Instead of scrutinizing what people have and how they obtained it, perhaps we need a more co-ordinated approach to ensuring all Nunavummiut have what they need.

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