The federal budget, delivered Thursday afternoon, commits $845 million over seven years to support housing in Inuit communities and $60 million over two years for the Government of Nunavut to support affordable housing and related infrastructure.
“Canada’s Northern communities face unique housing needs due to higher construction costs, shorter construction seasons, infrastructure gaps and the effects of climate change that are increasing as the North has been warming at roughly three times the global warming rate,” states a passage in the 280-page budget document.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) President Natan Obed called the housing investment “a significant step in the right direction,” as it represents three times the Budget 2018 allocation of $400 million for Inuit housing over 10 years. ITK stated that the commitment “ushers in a new era in housing investment for Inuit.”
To “maintain and transform” essential healthcare services for Inuit and First Nations, Ottawa allocated $1.4 billion over five years in Budget 2021, which is inclusive of funding to support reliable access to clean water for First Nations communities.
The budget also earmarks $227.6 million over two years to maintain “trauma-informed, culturally-appropriate, Indigenous-led services to improve mental wellness, and to support efforts initiated through Budget 2021 to co-develop distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategies.”
ITK stated that it is also encouraged by the mental health support from Ottawa.
“Additional support for the implementation of ITK’s evidence-based and Inuit-specific suicide prevention strategy, the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy released in 2016, will result in more immediate and positive impacts for Inuit,” ITK stated.
The federal government is providing $209.8 million over five years to increase support provided to communities to “document, locate and memorialize burial sites at former residential schools; to support the operations of and a new building for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and to ensure the complete disclosure of federal documents related to residential schools.”
In regards to Indigenous economic development in the North, Budget 2022 invests $15 million over five years to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay – described as “a hub for science and technology in Canada’s North … designed to be a world-class scientific facility in the remote Arctic that strengthens Canadian leadership on Arctic issues” – will receive $14.5 million over five years to support the completion of the scientific facility as well as operations.
Turning to the environment, Ottawa’s latest financial plan contains $29.6 million over three years to support the co-development of an Indigenous Climate Leadership Agenda to “support self-determined action in addressing Indigenous peoples’ climate priorities.” The climate funding will also support the phased implementation of distinctions-based climate strategies.
ITK added that it welcomes the federal government’s plans to develop a National School Food Policy.
Overall, the budget sets aside $31.2 billion in new spending over the next five years and projects a deficit of $52.8 billion.
Clarification: the $1.4 billion toward essential healthcare services for Inuit and First Nations was introduced in Budget 2021.