New report measures infrastructure gap between Nunavut and Canada

“The gap is a barrier to our potential, and closing it is a necessary task of reconciliation”

Nunavut currently has only one operating harbour, seen here in Pangnirtung, despite spanning about 40 per cent of Canada’s shoreline. (Photo by Patricia Lightfoot)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavut has the highest rate of overcrowded housing in Canada, the slowest internet speeds and the poorest access to local health-care services in the country.

Sound familiar?

A new study confirms what most Nunavummiut already know and live: that infrastructure across the territory lags well behind that in the rest of Canada.

Nunavut’s Infrastructure Gap, a report prepared by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and released this week, aims to quantify those disparities, highlighting the adverse impacts on Nunavut Inuit and calling on the federal government for investment and action.

“Nunavut Inuit are not asking for special treatment,” said NTI President Aluki Kotierk in an Oct. 21 news release. “We are asking for the same level of infrastructure and services that other Canadians expect across the country.

“The size of this gap isn’t a surprise to Nunavut Inuit: we live it every day,” she said. “The gap is a barrier to our potential, and closing it is a necessary task of reconciliation.”

The report was able to quantify that gap for priority areas, including health-care services, housing, transportation and communications. The report drew on existing data and interviews with policy-makers and stakeholders to determine the following:

  • Only 14 per of Nunavut residents have access to a regular health-care provider, compared to 85 per cent of Canadians. About half of the children born to Nunavut Inuit have to be born outside the territory, while most major treatments must be done in southern hospitals.
  • Nunavut is the only province or territory with no highway or railroad access. The territory has only one harbour out of the 1,010 harbours across the country, despite being home to about 40 per cent of Canada’s shoreline.
  • Nunavut is the only province or territory where there is no access to internet speeds over 25 megabits per second.
  • Eighty-five per cent of Nunavut’s water treatment infrastructure is considered to be in poor condition.
  • None of Nunavut’s energy is produced by renewable resources, compared to 67 per cent of the electricity produced elsewhere in Canada.
  • Nunavut has the highest rate of overcrowded housing in Canada, with the highest number of occupants per dwelling at 3.1 people per home, compared to the national average of 2.3.
  • The territory has the largest proportion of housing in need of major repair, at nearly six times the national average.
  • Nunavut is the only province or territory without its own central museum or heritage centre.

NTI argues that those gaps prevent Nunavummiut from achieving well-being and equity with their fellow Canadians, while they continue to face barriers to economic opportunity, food sovereignty and even COVID-19 preparedness.

The report calls for immediate and major investments from the federal government to start to bring the territory up to national standards.

NTI noted that Ottawa has committed to closing the northern and Indigenous infrastructure gap in its recent throne speech.

“Through this report, we now know the size of Nunavut’s infrastructure gap,” Kotierk said.

“Now the federal government needs to partner with Nunavut Inuit and make the investments needed to meet their commitment. Inuit are ready to do this necessary work together with Ottawa.”

Nunavut’s Infrastructure Gap by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pork Pie on

    Most of those bullet points could use some unpacking and analysis; for example, while “The territory has the largest proportion of housing in need of major repair, at nearly six times the national average” might be true, the question of where responsibility for that falls is not answered, though it is clearly assumed it belongs to the Feds. Should it? Is this the case elsewhere in Canada? We are after “equity” aren’t we?

    • Posted by David on

      That is exactly what I was thinking as I read this article. This is just deflection of responsibility from where it belongs.

      “Every time you point a finger in scorn—there are three remaining fingers pointing right back at you.”

      • Posted by Pork Pie on

        It is almost as if our leadership has resigned itself to a larger paternalism as the default model for us. Whatever we want we ask big daddy Canada for, and if we don’t get it, we stomp our feet, shout racism, and even call the UN. Aluki and Mumilaaq both seem to approach the world this way.
        We need to ask, what roll does our own initiative play in our betterment and development? Take the call for a territorial museum and heritage center as an example. What local or territorial initiatives are in place to create one? I don’t honestly know, but I believe strongly that this is something our government needs to lead the effort on. Maybe NTI should be willing to kick in as well. And of course, the federal government should, and undoubtedly would kick in. But the federal government should not be expected to lead the effort to create this for us.

  2. Posted by Wandering Star on

    Aluki Kotierk & N.T.I people, I ask what on earth is wrong with
    you ? What planet do you live on ?
    It is people themselves who are to blame !
    Won’t pay rent, trash their new houses, live on a diet of junk
    food, buy bootleg alcohol, and won’t look after their poor
    The elected, privileged, and highly paid reps of Nunavut have
    to start helping their own people and quit blaming the FEDS.
    We know who the freeloaders are.

    • Posted by Forever Amazed on

      Well said.

  3. Posted by Beverly on

    The infrastructure gap is at least part of our own doing. The stipulation that beneficiary run businesses receive contracts if their bid is approximately 25% higher than a non beneficiary company means that we elect to build up to 25% less infrastructure for our money.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      I have wondered the same thing… why would it cost more for an Inuit owned business to build a house then an non-Inuit owned business? It still takes the same number of people and the same products and the same required education to get the job done right no mater background of the owner.
      I am in support of forcing the GN to give contracts to Inuit owned business but that should be that if there are two business that give the same quote then if one is Inuit owned they get it.

      • Posted by Forever Amazed on

        AGree with both of you.
        Did not QIA contract out the building of a hotel in Iqaluit to China? (prefab parts were built in China and assembled in Iqaluit). Will have to find the article.

      • Posted by Builder 2 on

        The Nunavut Agreement requires the Federal government and the GN to assist Inuit owned businesses, but only when doing so does not increase costs. That 25% diferential is not in the Nunavut Agreement and is constitutionally illegal.

  4. Posted by Darren on

    It would seem to be a missed opportunity to further our collective arctic sovereignty claims through infrastructure development

  5. Posted by We need better on

    We need better conversations in Nunavut. We need better conversations about development, about culture and its influence on education, on material wealth and on adaptation to modernity. We need a commitment to good faith discussions between people who don’t agree, but are equally interested in our common good.
    What I do see is a proliferation of bad, or simply poorly thought out ideas (NTI has been leading the way on this lately) filling all the space in public discourse, and it’s fruitless.

  6. Posted by Ken on

    We should all see what is happening in the circumpolar regions and the other countries to gage were we are at.
    Is the other region doing better or worse, if they are doing better, why and how are they doing a better job?
    We can all learn from each other, especially from the other northern countries.

    • Posted by Paul on

      Unfortunately the governments cannot look that far, cannot or maybe unwilling is more accurate a term.
      The other northern countries do things too differently then what is down in southern Canada and that is a problem with our officials in our governments, it has to be the same or similar as how it’s down in southern Canada or it’s not any good in their eyes.
      But maybe our neighbours are doing something right and it can be done here too? They do seem to have more in infrastructure then what we will ever have.

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