On Aug. 12 Minister of Northern Affairs Daniel Vandal dropped down in Iqaluit and announced $517.8 million that will be available for shovel-ready infrastructure projects across Inuit Nunangat.

This funding comes from Budget 2021 under the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund (ICIF).

Attending in person was President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) Aluki Kotierk as well as a number of Inuit leaders from across Inuit Nunangat who were observing virtually.

Amounts have not yet been earmarked for particular organizations or areas, and the $517.8 million Inuit-specific funding will be split among the four regions of Inuit Nunangat, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.

“This distinctions-based funding will work towards addressing the immediate needs of Inuit as prioritized by Inuit,” said Vandal.

The $517.8 million will be allocated over four years from 2021 to 2025, this will include Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) operating resources and internal services costs.

Some infrastructure investments will be seen sooner rather than later.

“We know that some investments like housing can be delivered in the relatively short-term. Other projects will take time and we need to take the time to do it right,” said Vandal.

The next step will be for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) board members to meet and determine how this money will be spent and allocated in the four Inuit regions.

So far 24 critical regional infrastructure projects have been identified across Inuit Nunangat, many of which according to the minister have already completed planning and feasibility studies.

“It’s the most significant amount of money any government in recent memory has invested in Indigenous infrastructure,” he said.

Kotierk says this is the first step in moving forward, but hopes this will be followed up with subsequent, continuous investment in Inuit.

“I think Duane Smith (Chair/CEO of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation) said it properly when he said that each region could probably use that amount. I think from our perspective that this is a good start, to start addressing the infrastructure gap we have across Inuit Nunangat, but we will certainly have to do more work to ensure that we continue to advocate,” she said.

ITK president Natan Obed also praised this announcement as a start.

“Until today, Inuit have been excluded from the development of these shared social assets, and the prosperity, health, and security they bring. This short term initial investment will help Inuit begin to respond to the unique infrastructure needs of the 51 communities spanning four regions,” said Obed.

Obed adds they will work with the Inuit regions with the feds to help co-develop “long-term, distinctions-based infrastructure plans as the basis for long-term, transformative investments.”

Kotierk adds that Inuit across Nunavut still continue to be impacted by the existing gap it has with the south.

“The lack of infrastructure in our communities negatively impacts Nunavut Inuit everyday. A fund dedicated to focus on Inuit infrastructure priorities will result in much needed transformational change to Inuit lives,” said Kotierk.

Nationally, the ICIF under the Government of Canada plans to invest $4.3 billion over the next four years in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

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