MP Qaqqaq returns to Parliament with renewed call to address Nunavut housing crisis

Report into issue almost ready for public, according to MP’s office

Nunavut’s housing crisis is at the heart of many of the territory’s problems, says MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq. (File photo)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is diving back into work, returning to the issue that led her to take a two-month leave of absence late last year – the Nunavut housing crisis.

“Could you imagine living in a home where your 11-year-old child has hung themselves and that’s where you have to live for the rest of your life,” asks the Nunavut MP, describing what she learned during a tour she took last year of homes in eight communities across the territory.

“Could you imagine living in a home where your husband was shot in the kitchen and you had to clean it up, and that’s where you lived for the rest of your life because there’s no other housing options?”

That three-week tour, which included a stop in her hometown of Baker Lake, left Qaqqaq with what she describes as feelings of anxiety, depression and extreme burnout.

She says she visited four of the communities by herself and four with a staff member, and often worked until 11:30 p.m.

After it was over, Qaqqaq says she spent time trying to wrap her head around how the federal government “has so severely screwed over Inuit.”

“They don’t see it, they don’t interact with it, but they keep saying they know it’s happening,” she said about the housing crisis.

She opened up about her experiences in a video statement on Jan. 25, explaining she took the time off to get the support she needed.

“Lots of people think if I can’t handle this intensity, then maybe I shouldn’t be a politician,” she said.

“If people saw what I saw in those three weeks, anyone with a heart would have taken time off.”

Qaqqaq described mould-infested homes with severe structural issues, as well as babies and children with skin irritations thought to be caused by mould.

“I could smell the mould before I was even in the house,” she said about one home she toured in the Kitikmeot region.

Qaqqaq says she believes addressing unsafe housing in the territory is a first step to tackling other issues.

“Everything that ties into quality of life and well-being ties into where you lay your head at night,” she said. “If we can’t start with that safe space, I don’t think we can start with anything else.”

About 37 per cent of Nunavut’s population is living in homes that need major repairs, are not the right size, or are not affordable, according to the Nunavut government’s 2020 Status of Housing report, published in September.

In October, the Nunavut Housing Corporation announced it would spend $30.7 million on mould removal in homes across the territory over six years.

Qaqqaq’s office is producing its own report on the findings from her housing tour, which is nearly complete, according to Mathieu Boisvert, a spokesperson from the MP’s office.

It will be translated into Inuktitut before being released to the public, he said.

Qaqqaq said her report is intended to create awareness of the issue, because her role as a member of Parliament is to advocate for her constituents.

In general, she said she feels there is a misunderstanding about the decisions she has the power to make as an MP.

“I walk into people’s homes and there’s definitely a notion that I can leave and somehow they’re going to get a new unit next week, or it’s going to be fixed within the month,” she said.

“That’s not at all how it works,” she said. “I do not have the power to say yes or no to anything.”

As her work on the Nunavut housing crisis progresses, Qaqqaq also took a moment to contemplate her future in Parliament.

She says if circumstances were different, she probably would have pursued a life in the arts.

“I love dance, I love music, I love fashion, I love that kind of stuff,” Qaqqaq said.

“This is 100 per cent who I’m meant to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. But if every Inuk had the right to self-determination, it is not what I would be.”

That said, she says she remains on the fence about whether she will run for re-election.

“It’s leaning a bit more towards yes now, but it’s still up in the air.”

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(25) Comments:

  1. Posted by election time? on

    I wasn’t looking forward to another federal election but now I am.

    • Posted by Nunvut Voter on

      I look forward to it too, I hope the Liberals and Conservatives can field some decent candidates. Though I think Megan was probably a good choice as it was. The Conservatives really need to move on from the Leona era.

  2. Posted by A decent restart on

    I like that you’re focused on the top issue. I wish you could do more but that’s the price we pay when we elect someone who isn’t part of the ruling party. I suppose bringing the housing crisis to the forefront of national news is one part of the formula. Anyone who knows anything about Nunavut knows that all our problems stem from poor housing and it needs to be fixed somehow.
    I hope your report is damning (because it should be, housing here is a disgrace) and sticks to the facts. Don’t drag poverty porn or petty partisanship in this.

    • Posted by Observer on

      “Anyone who knows anything about Nunavut knows that all our problems stem from poor housing and it needs to be fixed somehow.”
      No they don’t. A fair number of issues with housing stem from some of those problems (like endemic alcoholism and substance abuse), not the other way around.

      • Posted by A decent restart on

        Many people here drink themselves silly because they can’t stand living in an overcrowded home, or they live in a shack so they don’t have to stay in an overcrowded home.
        Some people drink because they were sexually abuse… Because they grew up in an overcrowded home and a cousin/uncle/friend abused them
        Some kids try booze and drugs way too early because theyre always outside, trying to escape the awful conditions at home.
        Etc etc…
        Substance abuse is a symptom, nit the cause. We can build the best rehab facilities in the world, and it’ll all be for nothing if the people who exit rehab go back to dilapidated overcrowded homes.

        • Posted by NUMH on

          Wow. Thank you for pointing this out. Most educated comment I have seen in a long time.

        • Posted by Bemused on

          A fair number of those houses are dilapidated because of what the people in them do to the home, often while under the influence.
          I’ve seen Housing units built at the same time, with the same design and material, in the same multiplex, with roughly the same number of people living in each, where one is in good condition even when the people inside don’t have much, and the one next to it has holes punched in the walls, doors kicked in, fixtures ripped off, and windows broken, even after the people in it were moved in when it was brand spanking new. At some point, part of the blame has to be shared with the people who destroy their own homes.

  3. Posted by Upon Reflection on

    I hope Mumilaaq finds success and happiness pursuing a life in the arts.

  4. Posted by Name withheld on

    I hope she questions NHC, the district directors and the President along with the Technical maintenance staff members to question and follow up on the LHO Foreman, Maintenance staff why they aren’t properly maintaining the Public Housing within Nunavut especially when a huge lot of money was spent few years back on remediation!!

    While the staff of the NHC live in stress free healthy accommodating staff housing, rest of Nunavut who rely public housing are paying the price with their health !! Shame on them

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      Although, you concerns are valid, your desire that she help you will fall on deaf ears.

      Your issues are Government of Nunavut responsibility thru NHC and your local housing authority.

      Better you direct your concern to your MLA

      • Posted by Funding from on

        she could champion though improving/intro of stipulations to federal housing transfers to better cover for disproportionality in 1) O&M and 2) housing age/size allocation for GN worker vs public housing tenant {especially who gets the new-builds, and empties}.

        MPs have superpowers when it comes to getting responses and meaningful data from many hard-to-reach umm, public places, so getting NHC to share the numbers of whos in old/new units and if they work for the GN, could be an easy pull…

        Bringing evidence like this to question period, would open discussion on how well the Liberals actually know how they’re funding is being used… definitely the role of an opposition MP

      • Posted by Name withheld on

        This issue with Public Housing in Nunavut has been on going for the past few years, more so since the remediation was done as not a lot of tenants were notified how serious it is to have mold issues.

        All Maintenance staff for the LHO were trained to take them upon themselves to do the remediation, plus annual preventive maintenance on all units. They have enough casual staff to do the non serious work orders as like changing light bulbs, door knobs, leaking faucet but they are mainly being asked to tag along to drive around with the full time staff who tends to other work orders . So more money is being spent and charge on a work order as like one to GN staff housing etc .

        BOD were put in place to oversea the public housing within their community but as soon as they get elected they assume they are the supervisors of the union staff members and they aren’t reminded by the program officers for the NHC of their membership roles as the NHC don’t like to get involved in community etc association level yadidah

        Going to the MLA will never work as unless you have someone like Adam or the guy in Sanirajjak who aren’t afraid to speak for their community

        Miss Q went into these units, she saw first hand as most BOD or MLAs would never do so as they don’t like to get involved in the community level or they are too busy etc . It is the start to get heard as yelling at LHO or NHC never gotten anywhere these past years

  5. Posted by iWonder on

    When speaking about being a politician vs an artist Mumilaaq says

    “This is 100 per cent who I’m meant to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. But if every Inuk had the right to self-determination, it is not what I would be.”

    Doesn’t it seem odd to suggest you were unable to realize your dream of being an artist because as an Inuk you have no right to self-determination, while speaking as a Member of Parliament? The logic here doesn’t seem to hold very well.

    • Posted by Perplexed on

      I’m baffled at this too. Is this supposed to be something profound? Is becoming an MP something anyone can do? Meanwhile… you can’t be an artist because… Inuit ambitions are always thwarted? Because, oppression?

      It’s completely absurd.

  6. Posted by Monty sling on

    Stop bitching, go to the polls next time or keep ur mouth shut. It does not do u any good after the fact.

    • Posted by voter on

      I did go to the polls but this time I will be more strategic and vote for the person who has more experience and part of the ruling party that can do more for Nunavut.

  7. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Qaqqaq and her immature responses to everything has grown very tiresome already. She really isn’t cut out for politics. So naive. Housing is a many facetted problem. There is not enough housing available for the ever burgeoning population and people never think where will I live when they start having children and making a family. They just squat in their parents or grandparents houses for years many not educated and not working but for some reason totally thinking they are somehow entitled to housing, income, furniture etc…. with little effort on their part. I don’t think it is written anywhere that we are entitled to endless freebies when we hit 18. Secondly housing does indeed need to do a better job with upkeep and maintenance of units especially those dealing with mold, but for too many years I have also seen tenants abuse units in terrible ways and then expect housing to rush over and fix it for them. I have seen the houses of some people kept immaculately clean and orderly and they will work on smaller maintenance issues themselves which is a normal thing to do when you rent a house, and then I have seen others who never seem to clean their houses, there are giant holes in the filthy walls with the insulation yanked out and of course there are those who crank up the heat and have windows open at the same time (certainly not helping the mold situation) and every light on in the house, writing all over the walls, dirty clothes and garbage everywhere, complete squalor. And god forbid they clean a small amount of mold before it becomes a huge problem. Recently I saw a picture of the inside of a house on CBC or Igalaaq I guess we were suppose to feel sorry for this tenant but obviously he and his party friends had trashed the house on numerous occasions, no more stove or fridge because they were destroyed kitchen cabinets torn out etc.. I guess he should get a new house? He shouldn’t be entitled to a house at all. In most places you need references to rent a house. This guy wouldn’t even be elligible to get a house.

    • Posted by Gruesome on

      In reality you would never hold this position you have with LHO or GN if you were maybe still living down south? So instead of putting the tenants down, educated them, that is where your tenant relations come in, who should be train by your Program officers for the NHC, Remember NHC spent a lot on these hand books? 😀

      Do some reading, get involved and listen for a change, than maybe these tenants feel they are being heard for a change… I think its time NHC gets a new President

      • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

        You are so off the mark, Gruesome.

  8. Posted by Hope on

    It doesn’t matter which political party is in charge, Nunavut has been in a housing crisis for decades and it won’t change without a major review of the housing system Nunavut Housing Corporation and the Government of Nunavut operate. Instead of spending millions on beautiful office buildings, schools and health centres, the GN can build simpler, functional buildings and allocate the savings to overhauling the housing system. Unless the federal government is going to create a completely separate entity to build and maintain housing, there’s no point to giving GN and NHC additional federal funds for housing. We must fix the actual systemic problem before wasting additional taxpayer money and perpetuating the crisis.

  9. Posted by Damned Either Way on

    No matter what our MP says or does she will get dumped on. Loads of arm-chair bullies have the answers to everything, yet help no-one.
    People learn from experience and their mistakes. She has a heart.
    Maybe those self-righteous voters should apply their thoughts to real life. Thank goodness there’s still some compassion somewhere.

  10. Posted by Mr. Carpenter on

    The price of house construction has almost no relation to the cost of house construction. The GN is almost the only buyer. There are only a few builders, so their prices are based upon what the market (GN or CMHC) will pay.
    Every building is a separate competatively bid project. over the long term that’s just about the most expensive way possible to build housing.
    Nunavut needs a complete re-think of its approach to housing.

  11. Posted by Increase Training and, therefore, Jobs + Slow Down the Birth Rate = Housing Improvements on

    Housing is, for sure, a multi-faceted issue.

    Let’s include the following two facets in the discussions:

    1. Increase post-secondary graduation rates = more people who can live in staff housing and who will work at good-paying jobs that can enable them to become home-owners. This would take some pressure off of public housing.

    2. Slow down the birth rate = less pressure on public housing.

    Also, how about initiatives that would use sea cans (shipping containers) to build Northern housing?

    Would be helpful for leaders to be vocal about these facets of the housing issue, too!

  12. Posted by Side Show Bob on

    We need to focus on the development of human capital. Without that these issues will never resolve themselves. The expectation that the government will always be at the ready to swoop in and build us an endless supply of subsidized housing is neither realistic nor desirable.

  13. Posted by Ned Flanders on

    Just out of sheer, utter curiosity…I wonder what numbers there be in unpaid rent, electricity and tenant damage across Nunavut, in total.
    If all the housing associations collected every nickel….could that finance a few new ones, at least?

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