The minister of Northern Affairs is referring to $25 million in Budget 2021 for Nunavut housing as a “down payment.”
“There’s very few strings attached. They can invest it the way they please,” Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said of the funding going to the Government of Nunavut. “They can lever it for other money to try to attract money from the national housing policy, or team up with one of the Inuit-rights holders to perhaps access some of the Indigenous-based infrastructure funding that does include housing.”
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated had requested a $500 million federal investment in housing for Inuit prior to the budget.
Vandal noted that $4.3 billion over four years for Indigenous-based infrastructure announced in Budget 2021 could be spent on housing as well.
“We are letting Indigenous nations determine how that money is invested in their priorities,” he said, adding that $18 billion for Indigenous communities over five years is “a huge investment.”
During an online Zoom meeting with national media on Monday, Vandal and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller made mention of a $1.5 billion increase in Rapid Housing funding, which supplements the $1 billion that was allotted with the program’s creation in October. However, Vandal acknowledged that not a single housing project in Nunavut has received any Rapid Housing resources to date.
“We need to do a better job of making sure that housing funding lands well in the North, in Nunavut and the other two territories,” he said. “I’ve committed to look into this.”
Vandal reiterated a message he has often stated in the past, that the infrastructure gaps among Indigenous communities are so large that it will take many years of continuous investment to close them.
“We have no plans to stop partnering with Inuit nation and First Nations and Metis Nations,” he said.
Miller added that Indigenous leaders have made clear that housing is a top priority, “especially those who experienced (Covid) outbreaks in their communities as inadequate housing and overcrowding were perpetrators of the spread.
“There is more to do and we’ll continue to work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Metis partners to co-develop and implement community-led housing strategies in particularly, and we’ll continue to work relentlessly until the housing and infrastructure gap is closed,” he said.