The Federal Housing Advocate visited Nain, Hopedale, and Goose Bay in Nunatsiavut as well as Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, and Iqaluit in Nunavut from October 17 to 29, 2022, in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Kavamanga and Nunavut Tunngavik, to learn more about housing in the North, particularly for Inuit communities.
We know that there has long been a housing crisis for these communities. The Federal Housing Advocate witnessed first hand and heard directly from Inuit community members about the dire housing realities they face as a direct result of colonialism and a staggering failure by multiple levels of government over many decades to invest in and respect the human rights of Inuit. Despite repeated promises by multiple levels of governments, families continue to live in deplorable conditions. This is an ongoing human rights failure that needs urgent attention.
The Advocate heard the exhaustion and the urgent need for change both from people who are unhoused and those who are stressed and living in precarious housing circumstances. The level of distress cannot be underestimated, nor can the toll that being unhoused or precariously housed has on one’s physical, mental and emotional health. Throughout these communities, the host Inuit leadership organizations made it possible for the Advocate to visit several forms of public and private housing, including housing that serves people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, women and children fleeing violence, and Elders.
Inuit must be able to exercise the right to control and manage their own housing. This right to self-determination is in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Long-term, sustainable and adequate funding is needed at all levels to address the housing crisis for Inuit.
Housing need in Nunavut
In Nunavut, the core housing need rate in 2021 was 32.9%—this is compared to the national average of 10.1%. (Statistics Canada) Core housing need is defined as living in an unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable dwelling and not able to afford alternative housing in their community.
Areas for action
The Advocate will work with the Inuit leadership organizations to co-develop recommendations for government duty bearers to address long-standing inequalities and violations of the right to adequate housing. The recommendations will include measures to:
- Dedicate funding to meet the housing needs of Inuit and their communities, especially to maintain and renovate existing community housing supply.
- Support by all levels of government the Inuit Housing Action Plan.
- Recognition of the direct role of Inuit organizations and governments as primary partners in addressing housing needs in their communities.
- Direct and sustained federal investments, including respecting the government-to-government fiscal relationship as opposed to the creation of a myriad of federal housing and homelessness programming.
- Improved, flexible, and, where possible, direct access to programs designed to reduce housing need, and related infrastructure investments.
- Reduction in overcrowding and the numbers of dwellings requiring major repair.
- Expansion of housing options within the housing continuum in Inuit communities.
- Culturally appropriate understandings of home and household.
- Explore and remediate discrimination in banking practices and provision of insurance.
Consider the example of a home we visited in Pangnirtung with seal skins drying outside. The two families who live in the home, eight people in total, are facing eviction and an uncertain future.
In the media
- November 2, 2022: Federal advocate explores systemic housing issues in Northern visit | Nunatsiaq News
- December 3, 2022: Investments in Inuit housing inadequate to address human rights violations: watchdog | The Star
- December 12, 2022: Le besoin d’investissements « durables » pour contrer la crise du logement au Nunavut | Radio-Canada (The need for 'sustainable' investments to address Nunavut's housing crisis | Radio-Canada)
- December 21, 2022: Housing conditions in Nunatsiavut a 'human rights failure,' says federal housing advocate | CBC News
- January 11, 2023: Abbott pledges support for Nunatsiavut housing after federal advocate calls it 'abominable' | CBC News