Friday, 14 December 2012

Chronic housing needs in the Canadian North: Inequality of opportunity in northern communities

" ...The Canadian North, which includes the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador, and Nunatsiavut, is a vast region rich in Indigenous cultures, pristine landscapes and waterways, natural resources, and increasingly diverse communities. It is also a region known for having the highest rates of chronic housing need in Canada. Across the North, where more than half the population is Inuit (including Inuvialuit), First Nations (including Innu), or M├ętis, there is chronic housing need (lack of affordability, inadequacy, unsuitability, unavailability) and lower rates of home ownership than in the southern provinces. The 2006 census found home ownership in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to be 22.7 and 52.9 per cent, respectively, compared to 71 per cent in Ontario or 73 per cent in Alberta. In most small, northern communities in Canada, social housing is the main, if not only, option, with very few opportunities for home ownership. Limited opportunities for home ownership are compounded by the high rates of unemployment in many small, northern settlements. 

Recent studies find that roughly 50 per cent of occupied dwellings in Nunavut are overcrowded and/or in need of major repair. In his ten-year follow-up report on the Nunavut Land Claim, Justice Thomas Berger wrote that the fact that even 25 per cent of Nunavut youth graduate from high school is a sign of their tenacity, given the negative health and social impacts associated with living in overcrowded housing. 

Adequate, reliable, secure housing is a foundational building block to physical and mental health, economic security, positive relationships with oneself and others, and the realization of one's local and national citizenship. The persistence of chronic housing needs in northern communities continues to degrade all of these components of a healthy life. Chronic housing needs have been directly linked to severe respiratory tract infections in children, suicide, low high school graduation rates, family violence, and addiction, the rates of which are higher in the North than elsewhere in Canada. ..."

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