Nunavut gov't rejects Iqaluit's land admin bylaw over 'human rights' concerns

The territorial government has rejected a proposed City of Iqaluit bylaw, over concerns it discriminates against Inuit who are originally from outside Iqaluit.

Proposed bylaw sought to give Inuit preference in residential lot lotteries

An overall view of Iqaluit is shown in this February 2017 file photo. The Government of Nunavut has rejected a proposed Iqaluit bylaw to change how residential lots are distributed. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Nunavut government has rejected a proposed City of Iqaluit bylaw over concerns the bylaw discriminates against Inuit who are originally from outside Iqaluit.

The Land Administration Bylaw aimed to change the way the city distributes its residential lots. Right now, it's through a lottery system which gives preference to first-time homebuyers. The new bylaw sought to also give preference to Inuit over non-Inuit.

But the proposed bylaw went a step further, in giving extra preference to Inuit who are originally from Iqaluit, over Inuit originally from other communities.

Specifically, the bylaw is worded as giving preference to Inuit who have listed Iqaluit as their "associated community" on Nunavut Tunngavik's Nunavut Inuit Enrolment List.

The bylaw also defines a "first-time homebuyer" as someone who, and whose spouse, has not previously owned a residential unit in Iqaluit.

This brochure from the City of Iqaluit set out the new categories it sought to implement in changes to the lot distribution system. (City of Iqaluit)

The Nunavut government, which has to approve new municipal bylaws in the territory, says classifying people based on where they're from and by their marital status is problematic.

"The proposed Land Administration Bylaw arguably discriminates on the grounds of 'place of origin' and 'marital status' contrary to Nunavut's Human Rights Act," a spokesperson for the government wrote in an email.

"Beyond these Human Rights Act concerns is the municipality's general lack of authority to differentiate among classes of citizens for the purposes of land administration," the spokesperson added, saying the city doesn't have such authority under Nunavut's Cities, Towns and Villages Act.

The City of Iqaluit declined an interview request because officials say the city has not yet been informed by the territorial government on why the bylaw was rejected, and they want more information before commenting on it.

'Literally the least efficient way'

Iqaluit city Coun. Kyle Sheppard also declined to comment on the bylaw being rejected, for the same reasons City of Iqaluit officials wouldn't talk about it.

The City of Iqaluit's new Joamie Court subdivision. According to the last ballot draw for these lots, Inuit account for only 28 per cent of the ballots. (Nick Murray/CBC News)

Back in January, Sheppard decried the city's current system of distributing residential lots, saying he was disappointed Inuit ballots only accounted for 28 per cent in the last lot distribution. The January draw saw 19 lots up for grabs, though it's unclear how many lots were won by Inuit applicants.

"This method of land development has to end," Sheppard tweeted after January's draw.

"It's insanity, [it] does not benefit a representative portion of our city's population and is literally the least efficient way."

About the Author

Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He got his start with CBC in Fredericton after graduating from St. Thomas University's journalism program. He's also worked two Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.