Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 28, 2014 - 9:33 am

City-wide search raises questions about homelessness in Nunavut, Iqaluit

“I’m in awe of how they survive in those conditions”

PETER VARGA
As the search for Ben Palluq continues, some Iqaluit city councillors are raising questions about the plight of people who are homeless and sick. (FILE PHOTO)
As the search for Ben Palluq continues, some Iqaluit city councillors are raising questions about the plight of people who are homeless and sick. (FILE PHOTO)

The Iqaluit-wide search for Benjamin Palluq has sparked concern among some city councillors, who suggested March 27 that the city does little to help homeless Iqalummiut who suffer from poor health.

The RCMP, in collaboration with Nunavut Search and Rescue, the City of Iqaluit and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association have been leading a community-wide effort as to find Palluq, who is homeless.

Police have asked residents for information, and help in searching the city.

The city-wide search has revealed to many residents the harsh reality of life without shelter, city councillor Joanasie Akumalik said at the March 27 council meeting.

“During the search around the beach area (in the city centre), I saw there are many places used by homeless people,” Akumalik told council.

He noted that the homeless make use of shacks, blankets and refuse along the head of the bay in winter to keep warm.

“I am in awe of how they survive in those conditions,” he said. “They have no heat, they have no food. We must ask them what they need to improve their lives.

“Council has to take action on this issue now.”

An unnamed close relative of Palluq first reported to police on March 21 that Palluq had been missing since the beginning of the month.

The 44-year-old Inuk man is known to be on medication to treat an epileptic condition, and possibly other health problems.

Most residents recognize Palluq for his consistent presence in the city centre, where he often begs for money at the Northmart store and other places.

Coun. Noah Papatsie agreed with Akumalik, adding that Palluq also has mental health issues, which call for added resources to help residents with mental and physical disabilities.

Coun. Stephen Mansell emphasized the importance of continuing with the community-wide search.

RCMP and fellow search organizers are still looking for volunteers to help, he said.

“There are still a few places we haven’t checked, and there’s places they want to re-check,” Mansell said.

“As well, everyone on the city should check their own property, anywhere someone could get warm, and get out of the cold.”

The city should also ensure that its public works employees and drivers should be on the look-out, as they “cover every square inch of the city” in the course of their work.

Coun. Kenny Bell mentioned, via conference call from Montreal, a study the city has started on homelessness in Iqaluit.

“I’m looking forward to the results of that,” he said.

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