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Wasted water, mouldy houses and broken system

Last week dozens of people flocked to the Rankin Inlet dump. The reason? The Northern Store had thrown away thousands of bottles of water, all of which appeared to be perfectly drinkable.

Although the company admitted in an email that it was safe to drink, the head office in Winnipeg said the water was tossed out because it had a “cloudiness.”

In a culture where wasting anything is considered taboo, it made sense that people rescued the water and put it to use.

What boggles the mind is that a company would be willing to waste so much product that could have otherwise been donated.

The timing of the incident couldn’t have come at a more poignant time. Last week also marked the kick off of Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s housing tour of Nunavut.

Her photos of mould infested houses and conversations with people in public housing reveal a neglect of Inuit that runs as deep as the territory’s history and beyond.

As she rightfully pointed out, the extent that the Canadian government has allowed this to continue is disgusting.

Some will say that her tour is only highlighting what people already know, that Nunavut is underfunded and lacking the necessary infrastructure to support its ever-growing population.

What does this have to do with throwing out thousands of bottles of water? As Qaqqaq pointed out in her interview, when Inuit were forced to relocate to communities, they were asked to give up their way of life, to settle in a single place, to abandon their culture and customs.

In return they were given the promise of jobs and shelter.

The truth is federal government and southern companies never ventured into the Arctic because they wanted to help Inuit.

They saw opportunity — opportunity to expand territory, to extract wealth from the land, first through the fur trade and now through mining. In short, to profit off the misery of Inuit.

Today, even well-to-do families with two parents working good paying government jobs end up in public housing.

Throwing away water at a time when so many people in the territory are struggling to get by is more than just an oversight.

It is an indictment of a system built on profiteering.

It is unclear what Qaqqaq will be able to achieve as a regular MP but the fact that she is raising the alarm bells and pushing for a new way of looking at Nunavut is a good start.

Her desire to see Inuit be the architects of change, rather than depending on southerners to fill the gaps, is a vision worth embracing.

Executing the plan will require more than just a few minor changes and commitments to build a few new houses.

It will require a complete overhaul of a broken system where people are seen as consumers and water is treated as just another commodity.