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Inuit account for only a quarter of Nunavut gov't employees given staff housing: report

Numbers put together by the Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA show that non-Inuit employees are being housed more by the government of Nunavut than Inuit employees.

Inuit make up 50 per cent of the government's workforce

MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone compiled data from written questions he submitted in the Legislative Assembly since 2018 to show a picture of the government's staff housing numbers. (Submitted by Theresa Lee)

Significantly fewer Inuit are housed through the government of Nunavut's staff housing program than non-Inuit. 

That's according to a report by MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, who tabled the data he collected in the Legislative Assembly on March 4. 

The report is a collection of statistics the member for Iqaluit-Manirajak has been gathering through written questions in the legislature since 2018. 

It shows that Inuit staff account for just 26 per cent of employees in staff housing, for a total of 437 employees across all government of Nunavut departments, including the Qulliq Energy Corporation. 

"As a former [government of Nunavut] employee, that's when I first realized the inequity of the staff housing program," Arreak Lightstone told CBC. 

"I did not have the opportunity to take advantage of the staff housing program, just like many other Inuit employees in my same position." 

Non-Inuit government of Nunavut employees account for 74 per cent of those receiving staff housing, or 1,218 employees. 

The report breaks down the numbers by how many positions are filled in each department and how many are filled by Inuit versus non-Inuit. Of those, it breaks down how many people are in staff housing. 

Inuit are less likely to receive staff housing in all government of Nunavut departments when compared to non-Inuit employees, according to the report. (CBC Graphics )

The report shows 71 per cent of staff housing is going to people in higher level positions such as executives and senior management, indicating that the people who are making the most money are also benefiting the most from the program.

These positions are also held by mostly non-Inuit staff. 

The report says out of the 13 Inuit employees at the executive level, only one has government housing. By contrast, 12 out of 16 non-Inuit employees at the executive level are in staff housing.  

Across all departments and all positions, Inuit are housed less. 

"This is not the fault of a particular individual or office but systemic issue," said Arreak Lightstone in the legislature, "which I assume dates back to the inception of Nunavut." 

The numbers don't take into account the number of employees who own their own homes, or the kinds of units available. 

No incentives for homeownership 

But Arreak Lightstone says the staff housing program needs to be updated to better encourage homeownership. 

"The government should do more to incentivize homeownership, encourage employees in staff housing to eventually save up to get out of staff housing," said Arreak Lightstone. "Right now I don't see any incentive at all [to leave staff housing]." 

Arreak Lightstone says he knows homeownership in Nunavut is expensive and there is little available to purchase. 

According to Statistics Canada, Nunavut has the lowest homeownership rate in the country at 20 per cent as of 2016. 

The government of Nunavut's housing allowance for employees not in staff housing this year was $3,932, according to the government's public service annual report. 

Arreak Lightstone started looking into the government of Nunavut's staff housing program after being unable to access it himself before coming an MLA. (Nunavut legislature )

That's about $328 a month to put toward private market rent or a mortgage. 

That amount has been decreasing every year. For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the allowance dropped by $265 from the previous year. 

In 2017-18, the housing allowance was $4,199 a year. 

Changes needed to staff housing program 

As an alternative, Arreak Lightstone tabled the government of Yukon's housing initiative on March 8. The program gives government grants for housing developments. 

Arreak Lightstone said he wants to see the government of Nunavut take this kind approach to help make more housing. 

"I think such an affordable housing fund could be a great way for the government of Nunavut to collaborate with our Inuit organizations to also alleviate the housing shortage," he said. 

Arreak Lightstone said he hopes this information will help bring about change to the government's approach to staff housing, making it more equitable to all employees.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie McKay

Reporter

Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC in Nunavut. She has worked as a reporter in Thunder Bay, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Jackie also worked on CBC Radio One shows including The Current, Metro Morning, after graduating from Ryerson University in 2017. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.

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