We Can Do Better: Housing in Inuit Nunangat

Throughout their traditional homelands, Inuit face an acute housing crisis which threatens their health and safety. This persistent and growing housing shortage has been characterized as one of the most significant public health emergencies in this country. Severe overcrowding, substandard homes, and a lack of affordable and suitable housing options has left many Inuit families one step away from homelessness; an unsettling reality in one of the harshest climates in the world.

In Nunavik alone, over half of Inuit families live in overcrowded housing. In far too many communities, up to 15 people, including young children, live in small and crumbling three bedroom units. The effect of these conditions, on children in particular, is deeply troubling. Overcrowding results in higher levels of domestic violence and abuse, placing children in unacceptably vulnerable situations.

The lack of decent and affordable housing continues to have serious public health repercussions throughout the Inuit territories. Tuberculosis, which is rare in southern Canada, occurs among Inuit at a rate over 250 times higher than for non-Indigenous Canadians. Inuit families are at higher risk for mental health problems, including stress and anxiety. High levels of respiratory infections among Inuit children, such as chronic lung disease after lower respiratory tract infections, are also linked to crowding and poorly ventilated homes.

In this report, we have set out actions to support integrated and community-based solutions that better reflect Inuit cultures and the climate in which they live. This means involving Inuit in meaningful partnerships in the design of suitable homes, exploring new technologies to make better and more affordable homes available, exploring alternative financing opportunities that support greater homeownership, and taking appropriate steps to lower operating and construction costs, while promoting local skilled labour.

Finally, the chronic housing shortage, combined with a young and growing population, requires us to act now to alleviate the vulnerability experienced by far too many Inuit families due to a lack of housing and to ensure that generations of Inuit to come can fulfil their promise.

Publication Date: 
Inuit Nunangat