Family faces homelessness as union seeks reinstatement

Chronically ill teacher loses job and home

By JANE GEORGE

Veteran teacher George Livingston, his wife Annie and their 14-year old daughter will be homeless on April 26 after being ordered to leave the Inukjuak staff unit they've called home for the past 14 years.

Last month, the Kativik School Board fired Livingston from his job at Innalik School because of prolonged absences due to his chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

The KSB then told Livingston he must move out of his staff housing unit.

Livingston and his family, which includes one dependent child, now face homelessness in a community that suffers from a severe housing crisis.

Livingston learned this week that he lost his bid for a temporary injunction to stop the eviction while the Northern Teaching Association union fights his dismissal.

The ruling favoured the KSB, which argued that Livingston was no longer a school board employee.

The school board also said Livingston should have signed up for social housing more than 20 years ago when he married and became a beneficiary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Although Livingston's name is now on a waiting list for social housing, the idea of applying for social housing when he got married never occurred to him.

"I was working and had housing. I knew the situation with respect to housing was grim so I didn't think it would be right to apply if I was working," he said in an interview earlier this week.

Getting onto the social housing list now won't help Livingston much in Inukjuak, where the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau says about 100 people need social housing.

Livingston considers his chances of getting a social housing unit are "next to zero," since housing is distributed according to a point system that favours families who lose their homes due to fires or acts of violence – not the loss of a job.

On Feb. 20, the KSB told Livingston it had "no other choice" but to temporarily relieve him of his teaching duties.

Livingston, 51, worked at the KSB for 24 years. Since 2001, he's battled rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and potentially crippling disease.

The school board said he had missed too much work due to absences over the past seven years.

A March 11 decision to dismiss Livingston was followed by a second letter on March 17 from the KSB's coordinator of human resources. This letter gave Livingston until April 19 to vacate his staff housing unit.

The school board recently agreed to let Livingston and his family stay until April 26.

Meanwhile, Livingston has no idea how he is going to pack 24 years of accumulated belongings.

And his daughter has reacted badly to the news that the family must leave their home, Livingston said. If he and his wife end up leaving Inukjuak, his daughter will have to finish the school year alone.

"I don't want to leave but I can't see staying with our relatives for that long," he said, because his wife's relatives already live in overcrowded dwellings.

After surviving on no salary since February, Livingston will start receiving 15 weeks of disability benefits from the federal employment insurance program.

However, he still intends to fight his dismissal and feels the union will mount a strong defense.

The plight of Livingston's family highlights the dire need of housing in Nunavik, which needs an estimated 800 housing units.

But the KSB housing staff policy appears flexible enough to accommodate some people in need.

A female teacher in Quaqtaq, who is not a beneficiary, wished to extend her maternity leave.

She will be allowed to stay in her staff unit for "humanitarian" reasons, after Luc Ferland, the member of the national assembly for Ungava, intervened on her behalf.

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