NDP leader Jagmeet Singh touched down in Iqaluit on the evening of Nov. 15 and set off on a flurry of stops the following day, first at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum to call on the federal government to deliver the funding needed to address Iqaluit’s water crisis, following conversations with Mayor Kenny Bell and the Government of Nunavut.
“Today we’re making our commitment in that we’re demanding the federal government provide full funding, a full $180 million at least to fix this water crisis,” said Singh.
He adds if this was any large city in the south, this matter would have already been settled.
“We’re making that demand here in Iqaluit and we’ll go back to Ottawa to apply pressure to the government and deliver the funding as necessary,” he said.
Singh later added he has previously raised this concern around the Iqaluit water crisis to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as his ministers, and is making a renewed specific demand since arriving in the North.
“Imagine if in Ottawa, the capital of the country, Montreal, Vancouver, in any major city if there was a problem with the water, if there were hydrocarbons in the water, what would the federal government do? They would act immediately to fix the problem,” said Singh, who says fixing the problem and providing clean drinking water “has to be a starting point for justice and fairness.”
Nunavut MP Lori Idlout has welcomed Singh’s arrival with open arms, saying it’s an opportunity for him to “hear directly from Nunavummiut here what the important issues are” within the territory, such as the Nunavut housing crisis and mental health among youth.
“This is a question of infrastructure … having the infrastructure to respond to the needs of housing and water,” said Singh. “Nunavut has been ignored, Iqaluit has been ignored and people are paying the price of negligence.”
The NDP leader says people cannot have access to good housing if there’s not even access to clean drinking water, remarking that “water and housing are directly connected.”
“If there’s a problem with the drinking water in the capital, what about the other communities?” Singh asked.
“The fact that the capital of the territory doesn’t have clean drinking water, really draws and highlights a problem that people are faced with. We are one of the world’s wealthiest nations, there is no excuse that any community continues to not have access to clean drinking water.”
Another issue Idlout raised was the matter of bringing back Elders sent down to Ottawa when there was a case of Covid-19 in the Iqaluit Elders Hostel among the staff in May.
Idlout says the work won’t stop when she’s in Ottawa, she’ll be working with different critics to inform them of the traumas involved in sending Elders to the south and the cultural links being broken between Elders and youth.
“There’s always been an important link to be established … educating them about our culture, our heritage and our strength that Inuit have,” said Idlout.
On the matter, Singh says the ongoing situation of homing Elders in Ottawa’s Embassy West is unacceptable.
“What we’re advocating for is that there’s got to be a better way to care for people in communities. That means doubling down on home care, enhanced home care so that the seniors can live in their homes, in the communities.”
Later on the same morning, Singh and Idlout met up with Mayor Bell to discuss the city’s water crisis as well as to help hand out water by the Curling Rink.
“Having Jagmeet Singh, a leader of a national party, come to Iqaluit and not only meet with people on the ground, but also to help hand out water during lunch in minus 17 weather is a real boost to morale – not only for citizens, but to our City workers that have been working tirelessly throughout this crisis,” Bell said. “Seeing smiles on peoples faces 34 days in was priceless.”