Nunatsiavut leader says housing conditions have to be seen to be believed
Sheltered, a CBC Investigates series, examines the housing crisis in Newfoundland and Labrador — telling the stories of the people living it, while scrutinizing the policies and politics behind it.
CBC Indigenous: Canada’s inaugural housing advocate visited St. John’s this week to meet with the premier and housing minister to discuss the dire need for improved housing for Labrador Inuit.
Marie-Josée Houle and Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe met with Andrew Furey and Paul Pike, the provincial minister responsible for housing, at Confederation Buildingon Thursday in an effort to advance recommendations made in a scathing report released in November.
“It’s not just a report. This is a tool. This is a tool that has recommendations on how to move forward and how to ensure that the right to housing is realized for the people in it,” said Houle in a recent interview.
By invitation of the Nunatsiavut government, Houle visited Nain and Hopedale in October 2022 and toured homes in the coastal Labrador communities.
Houle said the meeting was encouraging and felt the provincial government was in support of handing over control of housing to the Nunatsiavut government completely. There was also an appetite for the creation of an advocate who can see the report’s recommendations through for generations to come.
“It is a 50-year plan that we need because otherwise we’re going to find ourselves in the same situation in four years, in five years, in 50 years, if something’s not done kind of long term,” Houle said.
Lampe is used to the Inuit facing broken government promises, he said, but he hopes this time is different. “We have to hold the federal and provincial government accountable,” Lampe said. “Labrador Inuit have been dismissed and ignored for far too long.”
The report, which contained recommendations for both levels of government and was made in collaboration with Labrador Inuit, identified the need for increased funding and autonomy for Nunatsiavut, as well as a mould remediation program and other urgent calls to action.
Inside Canada’s hidden housing crisis in northern Labrador
WATCH | A special report on housing conditions in Nain, where the country’s housing advocate is calling for urgent action: 2 months ago, Duration 14:48
In this special report, the CBC’s Ariana Kelland visits Nain, Labrador, where for decades Inuit have lived in conditions that have long been deemed deplorable and unacceptable. Now, the country’s housing advocate is calling for urgent action.
Click on the following link to view the video:
Lampe said it’s one thing to see photos of homes in his communities, but quite another to breathe the mould-laden air, fit into overcrowded houses and feel cold drafts in poorly constructed houses. “Housing conditions like that [are] causing health problems and so that has to be seen, not just federal and provincial ministers,” Lampe said.
In an emailed statement Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. spokesperson Marc Budgell said the meeting was positive and collaborative, and said Pike is committed to working with Nunatsiavut on its housing needs.
“This includes early steps of completing a housing needs assessment, identifying innovative housing solutions appropriate for northern climates, and participating in Nunatsiavut housing roundtables to collaborate on housing solutions,” the statement said.
Pike has committed to visiting the region in the near future.
Not to be forgotten
Houle stressed her role is to advocate — not just write reports to be ignored and shelved by both levels of government.
After years of feeling forgotten, Lampe is grateful for that. “This is not the first time you know that we have been requesting meetings with the province to discuss housing crisis,” said Lampe.
“The numbers are too high to remember on trying to get a meeting like just to discuss the issues. With the help of the housing advocate, this is a major step forward.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ariana Kelland, Investigative reporter
Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John’s. She is working as a member of CBC’s Atlantic Investigative Unit. Email: email@example.com