'People need help': Nunavut MP gathering firsthand stories of housing crisis
About half of Nunavut's 38,000 residents lived in overcrowded homes, as of October 2019
Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq says a lack of housing in the territory is the primary concern she hears from residents — so she's launching a housing tour to bring national attention to the crisis.
The NDP representative will start with visits to the Kitikmeot region next week. She hopes this will help the federal government and the public understand what Nunavummiut are facing.
"My goal is to meet with people one-on-one and hear firsthand experiences," she said. "To go in and hear from individuals directly so that I can bring that down to Ottawa to help advocate for more funding for housing."
Housing was a main focus in Qaqqaq's election platform when she became Nunavut's member of Parliament in 2019.
As of October 2019, around 5,000 people in the territory were waiting for public housing, and about half of Nunavut's 38,000 residents lived in overcrowded homes.
Qaqqaq says there's already enough data on the housing crisis, but those numbers aren't leading to change.
"We know that people need help," she said.
It's time that they treat us as Canadians.- Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq
"I'm hoping to share experiences in a way where it's not stats, it's not numbers. Unfortunately, that's how it's treated but these are people, our next generation.
"It's simple, people deserve a safe place to live."
The tour will focus on human experiences, to inform conversations around Nunavut's housing crisis within Parliament, she said.
So far, Qaqqaq said many people at the federal level are unaware of the challenges northerners face, especially those who don't have adequate housing.
She hopes other Canadians will pressure the federal government to fund housing and infrastructure in the North.
"Since the beginning of the relationship between Nunavut Inuit and the federal government, we have never seen adequate housing, livable costs," she said.
"I think it's time that they treat us as Canadians."
Qaqqaq says she is also working to create an online space where people can share their experiences with housing in Nunavut.
"I'm hoping that it will start a bigger conversation that's not just happening in the North," she said.
While public health has made exemptions for politicians to travel, Qaqqaq is continuing to complete two-week isolations before coming to Nunavut from the South. She has done these isolations already in Winnipeg and Ottawa.
Qaqqaq and her team will be in the following communities:
- Gjoa Haven, Aug. 10-11.
- Taloyoak, Aug. 11-13.
- Kugaaruk, Aug. 13-15.
- Coral Harbour, Aug. 17-19.
- Naujaat, Aug. 20-23.
- Arviat, Aug. 24-26.
- With overnights in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 16, 19 and 23.
Qaqqaq says she hoped to visit Sanikiluaq as well, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, she will have to visit that community another time.
Dates for a tour of the Qikiqtaaluk region will be announced in the fall, she said.
With files from John Eetuk