Protect our communities from COVID-19: ensure that every family has a safe home
November 22 is National Housing Day, a day to call attention to the housing crisis in Canada. In Nunavut, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent outbreak, the need for safe housing has once again taken centre stage.
Over 56 per cent of Nunavut Inuit live in overcrowded homes – with many multi-generational families crammed into small dwellings. These conditions pose specific risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it hard, if not impossible, for many Inuit to physically distance from family members, and creating conditions that exacerbate the spread of the virus.
Now, more than ever before, we need affordable, safe housing in our territory. The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is eager to see fast and decisive action on building new affordable homes in Nunavut that allow Inuit families to live in safety and with dignity.
The connections between overcrowded and inadequate housing and the prevalence and persistence of respiratory illnesses and diseases such as tuberculosis in Inuit communities have been well documented. The rate of tuberculosis faced by Inuit is almost 300 times that of non-Indigenous Canadians born in Canada. Like tuberculosis, the risk of COVID-19 is drastically increased by overcrowding.
Living in crowded inadequate housing also has negative impacts on educational outcomes, employment and physical and mental health. By investing in housing, we can ensure that every Inuk child has the opportunity to continue their studies at home. Proper housing also supports individuals to be able to keep their jobs while working remotely from their place of work.
Inadequate crowded housing increases the rate of domestic violence, stress and mental health episodes. Better access to housing will mean giving domestic violence survivors real options for a fresh start. Having housing security reduces stress and helps those with existing mental health issues feel more secure.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association looks forward to opportunities to work with the territorial and federal governments to tackle the housing crisis in Nunavut so that every Qikiqtani family has a safe place to call home.