Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut April 13, 2018 - 9:30 am

Northern affairs minister visits Iqaluit shack community

Inuk activist takes Carolyn Bennett to visit Iqaluit’s homeless

Carolyn Bennett visits Joamie Naglingniq, an Iqaluit resident who has been living in a shack since 2011. This firsthand look at Nunavut’s housing crisis came April 6, during a tour of Iqaluit’s shack community the minister took part in on the request of local activist Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau, right. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS ROHNER)
Carolyn Bennett visits Joamie Naglingniq, an Iqaluit resident who has been living in a shack since 2011. This firsthand look at Nunavut’s housing crisis came April 6, during a tour of Iqaluit’s shack community the minister took part in on the request of local activist Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau, right. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS ROHNER)

Iqaluit activist Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau hopes that recent efforts by Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, to visit Iqaluit’s homeless will motivate Nunavut’s politicians to make changes on housing and employment for Inuit.

On Friday, April 6, Inuqtaqau led Bennett and two of her staff on a walking tour of the shacks, tents and old boats along Iqaluit’s downtown beach area where many people live.

Inuqtaqau said there are about 30 or 40 shack dwellings along the beach and likely 100 shacks in Iqaluit and Apex as a whole.

“It’s dangerous to live in the shacks, too, with all that gas fumes, shack fires, over-crowdedness, mould,” he said. “There are families, elders, babies living in them too. It’s just sickening.”

Inuqtaqau said he invited the minister to do the walking tour because he wanted her to see this reality first-hand.

“Let her see with her own eyes,” he said. “She took her time to go to the shacks, to go inside and to talk to the people … I was surprised she went inside a shack for 10 or 15 minutes.”

In 2016, Inuqtaqau led a petition calling on governments to address what he calls unfair housing and hiring practices in Nunavut.

On the tour, Bennett told Inuqtaqau that in Nunavut her department has reached a 40 per cent Inuit employment rate.

Still, Inuqtaqau said he would like to see government intervention in private-sector employment as well.

He said too often people flown in from the south fill jobs that could be filled by Inuit.

And those southern jobs often come with subsidized staff housing, Inuqtaqau said, adding that many Inuit can’t get housing even through their jobs. He considered this to be especially true for private-sector jobs.

“I used to be homeless—I know how hard it is,” he said. “Inuit should have the exact same right to get subsidized staff housing.”

He said he has been trying to get a home for six years.

Last year, Cathy Towtongie, then president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., who went on to become MLA for Rankin Inlet North, supported Inuqtaqau’s petition in an open letter.

But Inuqtaqau said he doesn’t hear enough from Nunavut leaders about addressing homelessness, outside of election time. He said he wants to see politicians take visible action on addressing homelessness in Nunavut.

“Inuit leaders are not standing behind me yet and talking about these situations and visiting the shacks themselves,” he said.

And, as an activist whose petition has received 5,000 signatures online and 2,000 on paper, Inuqtaqau said politicians should be listening to him, and make more visible efforts to house and employ Inuit.

While she took part in Inuqtaqau’s beach walk-about, Bennett didn’t have any immediate solutions for these longstanding issues Inuqtaqau brought to her, he said.

“She said, spring is around the corner, it’s going to be a little bit warmer.”

Inuqtaqau said he is hoping to hear more about what kind of action can be taken by governments to address homelessness in Iqaluit and throughout Nunavut.

He offered the death of elder Jacopie Akpalialuk—who burned to death when his boat dwelling caught on fire in late August—as an example of tragedy that can be avoided if more is done to reduce homelessness in Nunavut.

You can find Inuqtaqau’s petition here.

Bennett’s office requested not to have Iqaluit reporters along for the tour and did not respond to a request for comment made by Nunatsiaq News.


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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by muff diver on April 13, 2018

Its amazing what the HUMAN BODY can withstand. The RICH are GETTING RICHER and the POOR are GETTING POORER.

#2. Posted by Travis on April 13, 2018

Great job, Q. I’m proud of you, she needs to see the reality that people live with.

#3. Posted by Root Cause on April 13, 2018

I am very tired of people complaining about Southern People taking jobs. Private and Public Employers would much rather local Inuit employees if they have the qualifications, come to work on time and regularly, and can do the job. They don’t even mind training! But letting this all out there, I see so many of my fellow co workers not showing up, take off for an hour without telling anyone, and on top of it are not qualified to do the job.

Instead of waiting around for something to happen take your high school equivalency, then sign up for a arctic college course that will get you a job. then go get the job! Training opportunities are everywhere, but no one is taking them!

#4. Posted by Rene on April 13, 2018

As a suggestion, I would think that there is shipping containers coming in…they make nice home out of them…if the government can stop looking for dinausore fossils and going to Mars, maybe they’ll focus on who is actually living on earth and help them with their existence; greenhouse in arctic condition…i believe Iceland has something on this…good luck!!

#5. Posted by Tour on April 13, 2018

Your picture says a thousand words, thank you.  It brings me to tears.  Lots is said through this pic.  All the struggles, the challenges, that Inuit face, It captures a words that all the other words I couldn’t say because of a lump in my throat and holding back overflow of tears.

#6. Posted by sled dog on April 13, 2018

I wonder how many homes could be built for the funds Bennett’s boss routinely gives away to foreign governments or his frequent tax payer supported holidays.

Take care of Canadian’s first.

#7. Posted by Public Housing on April 13, 2018

I hope that the Minister was also able to visit some of the overcrowded, derelict public housing units.

#8. Posted by Jobi on April 13, 2018

#3. So tired of always reading negative comments like yours. Down on Inuit. If you grew up here you would have a better understanding of Inuit & northern culture. Be respectful, considerate and supportive instead of finger pointing.

#9. Posted by Root Cause on April 13, 2018

#8 you assume I am not Inuit or a have not grown up here. Maybe I am from a mix family? There are many very successful Inuit but most are not working the entry level jobs. Do you know how hard it is to find reliable janitor in most communities? or someone to be a labourer on a construction site. These companies do not want to hire a different person every day, thats alot of extra work. They want the same people day in and day out, reliable and show up. Is there a housing crisis yes. but we can’t expect private business to fix this. So lets look at the root causes to homelessness in Nunavut. Its not lack of jobs, its people who are undereducated. No one in this territory is stopping anyone from getting the education they want or need to be successful Yes they might need to leave home to do it, but the opportunity is there, and if you show dedication in your studies, and in your job, we would have alot less people in public housing, because they would take those “southern people jobs”

#10. Posted by Jobi on April 13, 2018

#9. You likely are not Inuit or a northerner otherwise you would have a basic understanding of the challenges facing many Nunavummiut on a daily basis. Homelessness, overcrowding, food shortage, high cost of living, underemployment, job shortage in most communities, and much more. Compassion not criticism.

#11. Posted by Root Cause on April 13, 2018

#10 Maybe I am Inuit and grew up in Edmonton or Ottawa ?  I do live in the north, and I do understand all of the things you talk about. but lets look at the ROOT issue? Yes the government of ages past forced settlements. But if we keep just creating more housing with population increases this will never end. So we either need to get Inuit doing the jobs that southerners are doing and create an actual market for private home builders or speculators to make marketable rent homes, or find other jobs for Inuit to support this. Most jobs in the north can be done and should be done by Inuit! But until we address the education issues how will they do the jobs that Inuit and everyone else need filled for require so badly. Social Workers, Nurses, Doctors, Police, etc. the list goes on. If we don’t bring them current from the south who are we going to get? Same for general labourers working on deadlines. The are opportunities for all Inuit to replace Southerns.

#12. Posted by Really on April 14, 2018

Maybe come to work on time and consistently and you wouldny be blaming southeners for your problmems? Maybe do tne job required and there would be no issues. Ive never been in a place more racist tban Iqaluit. It would be nice if instead of being degraded in public for wanting to build a life we wete appreciated for coming up here and doing the work some people aren’t consistent enough to do. Stop segregating us if you don’t want to be!

#13. Posted by Rights Not Responsibility on April 14, 2018

So sad our Inuit leaders are always crowing away about our rights - maybe they should start talking about the many social issues right in front of their own noses.
Do you ever hear them talking strongly about food insecurity that affects 49% of those they represent?
Do you ever hear them take a stand on the child sexual abuse up here?
Do you ever hear them come down from their lofty perches and talk about suicide, as people keep blowing themselves away?
NO, it is just which meeting and when.
Wake up NTI!  These are your people!

#14. Posted by Why Why Why on April 14, 2018

Iqaluit, where the taxi drivers come from Quebec, Newfoundland, China and India.  But none are Inuit. Why?

Who lets the taxi companies get away with this discrimination?

Why don’t Inuit start their own taxi company in Iqaluit?

Why? Why? Why?

#15. Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on April 15, 2018

Scapegoating of southerners is the daily gruel in Nunavut. It’s easy to do, doesn’t take much thought, and appeals to the mass prejudices of the small minds here. When are we going to start discussion one of Nunavut’s biggest issues, the mass ignorance of its people?

That this is the least educated population in Canada is not just a trivial or inconsequential fact, in itself it leads to the cycle of abuse we see so much of; children raised on a diet of sugar, women who smoke and drink while pregnant, miserable people unable to effectively communicate in any language.

Jobi’s comments above demonstrate this. When confronted with a contrary perspective it is dismissed as that of an ‘outsider’ as if that in itself disqualifies what has been said, and because if all Inuit must stick to the same small minded script as he or she does?

Jobi, your slogan “compassion not criticism” is fluff and emotion, there’s no useful information in this.

#16. Posted by EskimoChick on April 15, 2018

Inuit also have to do the work on their side to upgrade their education and work hard for what they want. The government won’t always be there to help. We have to move on from being dependent to independent. There are many training opportunities for Inuit ngugaluaw. Just got to get up, do it, and don’t give up. We get free education and we should utilize that in order to get what we want. It’s time to change. Inuit ajunngituugaluat.

#17. Posted by INUK on April 16, 2018

Maybe if the education system actually teaches about NUNAVUT, the creation and the start, why it was!, The future generation has no education on NUNAVUT, none is taught in schools. Our graduates are not introduced until NS, so if one decided not to take NS, he/she has no education or know anything about NUNAVUT. This should be introduced in high school giving the young person open doors of opportunity to actually make changes. And something for NUNAVUT! to be an INUK and want to own a home is not easy in OUR LAND called NUNAVUT!, the thought of owning a home in Iqaluit is scary. I’ve actually thought about buying a home, even a townhouse, but to see the prices of homes or even a townhouses. the price for it, we can built 3 homes on a Reserve, down south. And this is to be NUNAVUT!. just our land not our home. is starting to make more since.  JUST OUR LAND!

#18. Posted by Qanurli on April 19, 2018

#17 what are you planning to do about that problem? Would love to hear about it.

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