Sen. Lillian Dyck comments on Northern Housing Study
April 22nd 2016
A group of Senators from the Standing Senate committee on aboriginal peoples are touring through Nunavut right now discussing the issue of housing in the north.
On Monday they visited Iqaluit and took tours of housing complexes and the power plant, along with meeting the Mayor and having a lengthy discussion to better understand the challenges related to construction, operations, and maintenance of housing, along with the impact of these issues in northern communities
Currently they are in Igloolik talking to both home owners and renters about the condition of housing they live in and the needs that are not being met by the current housing market.
CKLB talked with Senator Lillian Dyck about the issue of housing in the north and she told us some of the things that she has witnessed that are priority to be addressed.
“We just did a tour around some of the different houses here and we had a look at some,” said Dyck. “One example where it was a home owners home and others where it was public housing. We saw a lot of overcrowding. Saw some issues with mould and one of the biggest issues is not enough ventilation.”
First impressions of these housing conditions have left an imprint in the Senator’s mind and there are obvious issues that contrast the difference between northern communities and other communities throughout Canada.
“First of all you know that I’m from the prairies and the first impression is -When I was in Iqaluit I was really surprised at how rocky and hilly it was,” said Dyck.
“I was expecting rock, but not the number of hills. So in Iqaluit one of the things that limits their growth, because they’re a burgeoning city, is there’s not enough land flat enough to develop. So they’re limited in what they can do.”
There are a number of improvements needed in the condition of these houses and Senator Dyck has some ideas of the issues that will need to be addressed right away in order to improve the standard of living and sustainability in northern communities.
“One of the things we’ve heard… is the cost of housing, because of the remoteness, and the short number of months that are available in the year for construction and the need for funding to be long-term and sustained so that they can actually make plans,” said Dyck. “The other issue that has come up… is the lack of money for maintaining the home.”
Being able to see firsthand has been influential in the Senator’s opinion of Northern housing and she went on to say that although she hears about it from the people who live in these conditions, actually witnessing it still holds her in shock.
“You read about it. You have people come to Ottawa and tell us what its like, but you don’t really understand the full impact until you see it,” Said Dyck.
“I think today, and in Iqaluit as well, the most shocking thing is the number of people that are living in small three-bedroom houses. You’ll have 11, maybe 13 people living in a small house.”
There are reasons that the housing that fits southern communities doesn’t work well in the northern counterparts. Senator Dyck explains to us what is holding these constructions back.
“You know the local people have a lot of knowledge, and they were explaining today why the houses don’t work here, because in some ways they haven’t followed what Inuit traditional knowledge is,” said Dyck. “You know, sometimes we forget to listen to the people, and I think it important to listen to what the people’s experience. They know what works and we have to pay more attention to that.”
That doesn’t stand true for all northern constructions. There are new builds in the north that are doing very well and have become a model for all future housing growth in the territory.
“We didn’t get a chance to go into one of the new homes that is built to the highest specifications for heat retention and so on,” said Dyck.
“Those homes are working very well. The only problem there is that they get too hot.”
The Committee would like to have a report and plan of action finalized by the end of the summer to help tackle these issues as soon as possible. Their next stops on the tour are Sanikiluaq, Kuujjuaq, in Quebec and Nain, Labrador. They are not currently planning to visit the NWT communities, but are looking to have people come to Ottawa to testify to housing issues in our local communities.