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Iglulik mom fights flu, mould, overcrowding

Five of six children in Katherine Taqaogak's cramped four-bedroom home are sick with flu-like symptoms and she feels that mould and crowded conditions are contributing to the health issues.

"At night they get really feverish and cry a lot. Some of them will throw up," she said of the ailing youngsters.

Thirteen people live in Taqaogak's public housing unit.

Katherine Taqaogak posted this photo on Facebook earlier this month. She says the dark area around her bathtub is mould in her Iglulik home, where 13 people are living in four bedrooms and five of the young residents are sick.
Katherine Taqaogak/Facebook photo

One bedroom houses a mother, father, and four children ranging from 11 months to eight years. Another bedroom is used by a mom, dad and a four-year-old boy. Parents and their three-month-old baby occupy another room. The fourth room belongs to a teenager.

Taqaogak said she discovered mould after moving in less than two years ago.

"I noticed the paint was peeling off and underneath there's mould," she said of an area in the bathroom that all 13 residents share.

Mould has also appeared in one bedroom, she added.

She said she's awaiting her turn for the Nunavut Housing Corporation to remedy the problem in her home.

"They are aware," she said. "Some of us posted on Facebook (earlier this month) when we took a picture of the mould we have in our house."

Local housing staff are being trained to remove mould, she said.

"The MLA pushed them so they're trying their best to look into it now," she said. "Right now they're doing the ones that have the worst mould... there's a lot of mould they have to look into."

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk, who raised the issue of mould in Nunavut homes in the legislative assembly on March 7, said he plans to keep pushing for action.

"Hopefully they'll make it a serious matter," he said, estimating that maybe 10 per cent of Hall Beach homes and 20 per cent of Iglulik homes are affected by overcrowding and/or mould. "Hopefully (the minister) will think about that and not just review."

Terry Audla, president and CEO of the Nunavut Housing Corporation, noted that five new public housing units will be built in Iglulik in 2018-19. He added that mould has been addressed in 70 per cent of homes in six priority communities, including Iglulik. The others are Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk and Sanikiluaq. The work is on pace to be completed by March 31, Audla noted.

He also confirmed that local staff are receiving training on mould remediation as part of a multi-year approach that the Housing Corp. is taking.

Kaernerk expressed skepticism that enough will be done.

"I don't think the plan will work due to overcrowding," he said, adding that he intends to visit Iglulik to inspect the homes of constituents who invite him to visit, right after the current legislative assembly sessions wraps up.

"I know it's a serious matter... this is not acceptable."