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Four out of 10 Nunavik elders go hungry

Researcher: “No one suspected just how bad it was”

By JANE GEORGE

A new survey of elders in Nunavik paints an alarming picture of how the oldest and most traditional Inuit of this region live.

For Johnny Adams, chairman of the Kativik Regional Government, the report’s results, which were presented at the recent KRG council meeting in Kuujjuaq, prove that Nunavik’s 419 elders need urgent assistance.

The research report, a Socio-economic Profile of Elders in Nunavik, draws on interviews with elders in Nunavik for its analysis of their living conditions.

“No one suspected just how bad it was,” said lead researcher Nick Bernard. “Or how attached elders are to the practice of traditional activities.”

Without strong family bonds and the practice of sharing, elders’ living conditions would be much worse.

“They’re necessary to supplement revenues that aren’t large enough to cover the cost of food,” Bernard said. “This also explains the high number of elders who said they didn’t always have enough to eat.”

The report finds most elders in Nunavik:

Speak only Inuttitut;
Possess little or no schooling;
Have a limited income;
Live in overcrowded dwellings with no personal property insurance for their belongings;
Live in Kuujjuaq or Inukjuak;
Hunt, fish and share or exchange food, although 37 per cent, that is, nearly four out of 10 elders, said they lacked food occasionally or regularly;
Continue traditional activities, including hunting, fishing, carving and sewing well into their 70s;
Are poorer than their peers in southern Quebec, although the cost of living is much higher in Nunavik, leaving elders “doubly disadvantaged” because their income is lower but prices are higher,
Receive only government security benefits for their yearly income;
Have lower incomes the older they are and the more they practice traditional activities.
The report recommends some possible areas for government actions, which, the report says, could be affordable and effective because elders make up a smaller proportion of the population in Nunavik than in Quebec.

“This situation, which will surely change with the gradual aging of younger generations, provides public authorities with an excellent opportunity to introduce preventive and palliative actions.”

Actions could include indexing old age security benefits to the higher cost of living or adding on an additional amount to make up the difference in the cost of living.

The report suggests increased home care support or long-term care centres in the larger communities could also help improve elders’ living conditions.

The full report of the elders survey is available at the following address:

www.chaireconditionautochtone.fss.ulaval.ca.

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