Question Period: Indigenous Housing

By: The Hon. Judy White

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Ceremonial Guard drum, Ottawa

Hon. Judy A. White: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, the Federal Housing Advocate released a report on Monday focused on Inuit housing. The report painted a devastating picture of the living conditions in Nunatsiavut and Nunavut. It highlighted homelessness, severe overcrowding and homes without adequate water, sanitation or reliable access to heat and energy, along with the spread of mould and disease. Furthermore, these conditions have only worsened over time.

Based on this, I ask what the Government of Canada is doing to address the severe challenges and immediate needs of Inuit housing. Are there any meaningful actions being taken to ensure the Inuit right to housing?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question, senator. I had the opportunity, when I was a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, to visit the North, and I saw first-hand how — “challenging” is too nice a word — problematic the housing situation is, and that in the largest city in Nunavut. Add that to the other challenges that residents face — the cost of food and the like.

The government is committed to taking a rights-based approach to housing. In terms of concrete actions, the government has announced $287 million in immediate funding to address the unmet housing needs, and that builds on work already under way.

This is to ensure that over 40% of the units created under the Rapid Housing Initiative are targeted for Indigenous housing. It is a step in the right direction. The need is huge, as you quite properly pointed out.

Senator White: Thank you for that, Senator Gold.

I am wondering if the government has a long-term strategy to meet unique infrastructure and housing needs of Inuit in the North. Are there any specific programs in place or being developed to address this housing crisis in Nunatsiavut and Nunavut?

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator. In Budget 2022 and 2023, the government is investing $4.3 billion to implement a co‑developed Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy. I understand that the government is currently working with Indigenous peoples to co-develop and implement this strategy, and it is committed to continuing to work in that regard.

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