Quebec ministers visit Inukjuak as part of poverty mission

Nunavik groups to discuss unemployment and high prices with provincial delegates


MONTREAL — Two Quebec government ministers were to be in Inukjuak on Thursday, as part of a province-wide consultation on poverty.

Nicole Léger, minister for the elimination of poverty, and Jean Rochon, minister of state for labour and employment, were scheduled to meet with elected officials from nearly every organization in Nunavik to discuss the rampant poverty and unemployment in the region.

The unemployment rate and cost of goods is much higher in Nunavik than it is anywhere else in Quebec. And the Nunavik officials were going to show the Quebec ministers how much the essentials of life can cost in Nunavik.

According to a 1995 comparison of the price of 46 food items, a food basket that would cost $125 in Montreal costs $180 in Kuujjuaq and $254 in Umiujaq. Overall, the cost of living is substantially higher in Nunavik — up to 70 per cent higher in Salluit and Ivujivik — than in Montreal.

Recent statistics show that:

• The unemployment rate in Nunavik is more than 16 per cent.

• Food and basic retail items cost between 44 and 100 per cent more than in Montreal, and this difference is increasing.

• Despite higher costs, the average income in Nunavik is lower than in southern Quebec.

• Nunavik’s welfare rates are the highest in the province.

• Housing is overcrowded

• The per-capita average employment income is about $5,000 less in Nunavik than in other regions of Quebec.

The Quebec government has said it wants to hear ideas from throughout the province about what to do about poverty. The government intends to include disadvantaged groups in its plans as well – particularly those in remote regions. Quebec’s motto during its public consultations on poverty has been “Don’t leave anyone out!”

After wrapping up its consultation tour, Quebec intends to launch what the government calls a “systematic offensive” against poverty. The province has already tried to fight poverty by increasing employment incentives and giving tax breaks to low-income workers.

Now, it’s ready to spend another $100 million to improve social conditions. Some of that money is likely to end up in Nunavik.

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