Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) held a housing summit on Nov. 22 and 23 in Iqaluit.

Representatives came from all across Inuit Nunangat to discuss and look into the issue of housing which not only impacts Nunavut Inuit, but also Inuit across Canada.

Capacity-building, the Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy, Inuit homelessness, the Government of Nunavut’s plan to build 3,000 homes, sustainability, culturally appropriate housing and distinctions-based federal funding were among the topics discussed between Inuit leaders from across Canada.

“It shows just how important this summit is and how we’re all committed to addressing the housing crisis in Nunavut,” said Nunavut MP Lori Idlout.

The housing crisis according to Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe goes well-beyond just having enough social housing for all Inuit.

Inuit, he said must be able to have a choice in the matter.

“Without facing the crisis, we will not be able to address it,” said Lampe. “It goes deeper than a roof over our heads, it means every Inuk has the ability to choose housing in their community from a wide variety of options. Whether that means access to renting housing, supportive living, a homeless shelter or owning their own home.

“I look around this room and I see tremendous potential towards the delivery of this key priority strategy and it makes me feel hopeful other priority areas too can be accomplished,” he adds.

On the federal front, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed that despite decades of neglect, there’s been successes in recent years.

“As hard as we have worked on housing in the last two or three decades, we see overcrowding in Inuit Nunangat actually getting worse. This was a crisis in the 1980s and since Inuit were coerced and re-settled from the land after World War II,” said Obed.

Obed highlighted $1.3 billion in funding to Inuit rights-holding organizations such as NTI, Nunatsiavut and other groups.

“On the other side, our pre-budget submission for 2022,” he added. “We have identified $4.1 billion as necessary for housing across Inuit Nunangat to bring overcrowding down to the national average.”

According to Idlout, Inuit and Inuit leaders already know what they need, and a clear, consistent source of federal funding is necessary.

“It’s great to see we’re all basically saying the same thing, that we all need to work together beyond this summit,” she said. “If it’s known that we need well over $1 billion in investment, then these $100 million investments are not enough. We all know that so (they) definitely need to be more clear on the source of funding as well as whether it’ll be sustainable for several years.”

With all that being said, Idlout says she really hopes “people remember the real faces of those who are suffering from the lack of housing” in Nunavut.

Federal announcement

The same day the summit started, more than $4 million was announced to go toward supportive and transitional housing units for Iqalummiut. $2.7 million was contributed by the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), $1.4 million from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and $750,000 from NTI. The YWCA-Agvik, who are spearheading the projects, also contributed $217,333 of their own money.

This will be going toward providing 21 supportive and transitional housing units in three buildings with eight of these spaces designated for women and children living with intellectual disabilities or mental illness.

“The YWCA-Agvik Society extends deep gratitude to the CMHC and other funders that have made the acquisition of three new buildings possible in Iqaluit. These homes broaden our ability to offer safe spaces at affordable rents to women and their children who have limited options,” said Sherri Robertson, executive director of YWCA-Agvik.

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