ITK runs lukewarm on federal budget
"No real headway in addressing the devastating homelessness across Inuit Nunangat"
The 2013 federal budget released March 21 offers measures to address the housing shortage in some Arctic regions, and promotes community development with “a major investment” in federal infrastructure, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami says.
“It is gratifying to see the federal government recognize the dire need for social housing in Inuit communities after several budgets that offered no relief at all,” said ITK president Terry Audla in a March 22 news release. “This budget takes steps to remedy our extreme housing shortage, but makes no real headway in addressing the devastating homelessness across Inuit Nunangat.”
Nunavut receives a two-year $100-million program to build 250 new social housing units, while the budget also renews the Investment in the Affordable Housing program, ITK said.
But the budget doesn’t mention Nunatsiavut, with its shortage of housing, or Nunavik, which is experiencing the highest overcrowding in Canada with a shortage of 1,000 units, ITK noted.
As well, the budget contains no measures to address mental wellness among Inuit, although it creates a new program worth $4 million over two years to increase the number of mental wellness teams serving First Nations communities, ITK said.
“As finance officials themselves acknowledge in the budget document, mental health plays a key role in several areas affecting federal finances,” said Audla. “Addressing mental health among Inuit affects our well-being and our bottom line.”
Among the other measures in the budget singled out for positive mention by ITK: skills training initiatives, which include a partnership fund to work with aboriginal organizations.
The Nunavik Mining Sustainable Employment and Training Strategy and the “Mining the Future Project” in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region have already received $5 million each from this fund.
“The initiatives in this budget are a starting point for discussion,” said Audla. “I look forward to working with the Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Crown to ensure these measures work for Inuit.”