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.

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  1. Dear Ms Qaqqaq. Inuit way of living on land is still an option for Inuits, this will solve the housing issues. But my question is how many Inuit Youth born after 1999 are willing to practice their nomadic culture and live on land.

  2. Glad this is an opinion piece because everyone can have their opinion. This opinion really loses me when it starts drawing comparisons between a store deciding what to do with a product they sell and mold in housing. “water is treated as” commodity. When it is bottled it is a product and needs to be safe. They don’t know it is unsafe, but better not take chances and so dump it. If someone wants to drink it that is fine but the store doesn’t want that liability. I live in Rankin and if I went to the store and saw bottled water that was cloudy I would start wondering about the other products in that store, so they did the right thing. I don’t blame them for what they did and they have the right to do it. Mold in housing is a serious issue and this comparison makes light of it, in my opinion, of course :).

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