Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
It all has an impact. Earlier the suicide rates were mentioned. Our suicide rates are extremely high. We heard in the INAN standing committee that a loss of culture and identity leads to that. Many people can't maintain and continue the seal harvest, so they lose their identity, they lose their culture. That's why it's so important. It affects so much.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
For the north, for Nunavut specifically, I think it's a matter of just recognizing the uniqueness of it and the challenges that are faced, and looking at new ways, outside the box, of addressing those issues. It's as plain and simple as that. The same old, same old isn't working. Things aren't going to change. We have to take a look at a new way of dealing with those issues.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
We don't have any trees up there, so you couldn't be in our neck of the woods.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Gary, and welcome to both of you. I'll try to be quick.
My colleague Romeo talked about political will. I think that will is there. We have the Prime Minister who is genuine about it now, as well as Ministers Bennett and Philpott. In my experience of almost 16 years in public life, which is half of Romeo's experience, I have always found the bureaucracy is great at spending all their time and energy telling you why you can't do something. They'll give you 100 reasons you can't do something, and I always used to tell them, “Give me 10 reasons why we should.”
You mentioned a review at INAC and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. Do you feel that's part of the problem in moving some of these issues forward? There seems to be political will, but there has been 150 years of treating people as programs and numbers.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Long, and Mr. Chair and committee members, for giving me this opportunity.
I think you can guess I'm going to focus specifically on Nunavut, as we have Aluki here.
Mr. Robillard asked about the housing situation. When I was housing minister in Nunavut, probably about five years ago, we needed about 3,300 units just to meet our current demand. That was growing with a forced growth that I think is now between 75 and 90 units a year. That's over a billion dollars just to meet our current demand right now, and that was a number of years ago.
On top of that you have the other issue that was mentioned, the declining funding from CMHC on the social housing agreement. That's putting an extra burden on the jurisdictions to be able to maintain the units.
My question for Aluki is this. You mentioned long-term, stable funding. I know that's something that the Government of Nunavut has always been pushing for, to allow for better planning and expenditure of those resources, and not just with housing. Do you see the lack of what you called “social infrastructure” in the communities as partly the result of a flawed funding model, not only for Nunavut but for NWT as well?
Basically, the funding over the years has been allotted on a per capita basis. You have a jurisdiction with the highest cost of any kind of living, a small population, and one-fifth of the land mass of Canada. Do you see the inadequacy of historical funding as contributing to the lack of social infrastructure and making it difficult for Inuit people to get out of the poverty that we're stricken with?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Another thing I want to touch on that has been mentioned a few times here is the nutrition north program. I was at the indigenous affairs standing committee and there was a consensus that the program was like the analogy of the chicken and the egg. Everyone knew that egg was going to be scrambled before the program even started. That's how wonderful it is.
Do you feel the program should be just for nutritious food, or should it be adjusting and giving people the opportunity to be in line with the rest of Canada for basic needs. I mean things that you buy that you need every day, like toilet paper, diapers, toothpaste, different things like that? The program used to cover some of that stuff, and now that they've changed it just to cover nutritious food, it's more of a step backwards. The subsidy that there used to be for some of the basic things that you use every day has disappeared, and the price of that stuff has gone up.
Do you think that the program should focus on just the basic needs that everyone has on a daily basis, or should it be expanded?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Sikand.
Welcome, Minister. It's good to see you. I was very pleased to hear you say in your opening comments that when it comes to infrastructure investment, “the status quo is no longer acceptable”.
I can't think of a jurisdiction where that's truer than in my riding of Nunavut, where a dollar down here is 33 cents up there, where the highest cost of doing anything up there is three times as much, and where we have only one out of 25 communities that is tax based.
I think there's a need to look at a base-plus funding model to be able to address those needs. It's no secret that we have a huge infrastructure deficit in Nunavut as a result of the ongoing traditional way of doling out investment on a per capita basis. We have the largest land mass, a small population, and high costs, with hardly any infrastructure.
One thing I've always said in terms of any investment in the north is that one important thing to remember is that for us everything we need for infrastructure comes from the south, so it is an investment in the north but it's also a significant investment in the southern economy as well.
When it comes to the infrastructure bank, I know that the northern premiers have said there should be a northern infrastructure bank. I guess I'm just wondering if there will be a portion of this that will be dedicated to northern infrastructure, and if they will be looking at a different way of making that investment, aside from the per capita basis.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Massé, for allowing me the opportunity to participate and ask some questions.
My question may be to both of you. I know you've heard it all along, but.... Mr. Richard, you mentioned intergenerational trauma, and that's something I've heard about since attending these meetings. How big of a role do you see that playing in looking at the horrific statistics we have for suicides in indigenous communities, and what are some ideas on how to address it? We've heard a lot on the need for mental wellness, trauma counselling and treatment, and just better mental health services being offered in indigenous communities all across Canada, including Nunavut.
I want to get your views on that, both of you, please. Thanks.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Okay. Thank you, Mr. Richards.
This is another thing we've heard. I think everyone can acknowledge the fact that a lot of our indigenous communities within southern Canada, and also in the north and in the far north in Nunavut and in the Northwest Territories basically live in third world conditions when you look at housing, education, and health care. The way these jurisdictions are funded is inadequate and it seems to be just the way it is, so this is how it's going to be.
There needs to be a shift in recognizing and ensuring that all these different jurisdictions and communities have the adequate resources to deliver the services required. Going back to the provision of services, we've heard a lot about culturally based, community-driven healing programs and the lack of addiction treatment centres, which are inhibitors. I'm going to get the view from both of you quickly on that. Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing your time.
Welcome to the panellists. I know this is a huge topic that affects us in Nunavut and I'm pleased to have an opportunity to be able to listen and participate. I appreciate that.
One of the things that was mentioned during the talks was the calls to action. Number 18 was mentioned, basically saying we're in the state that we're in because of how we were treated in the past. It doesn't matter, I believe, if you're Inuit. It doesn't matter if you're Métis. It doesn't matter if you're first nations. We all suffered the same and we need to heal. I think that is the most important first step that we need to go through.
Call to action number 21, calling upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new aboriginal healing centres to address physical, mental, and emotional spiritual harms caused by residential schools and ensure funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, is a priority.
I know, and Michael and most of you from the northern rural and remote areas can attest to this, that there is nothing. In Nunavut and the NWT we have zero, and that's the same in most northern and remote areas of the provinces.
Do you feel it should be a priority for this government to fund healing centres in rural and remote areas where we're seeing the highest suicide rates from the statistics to be able to help people heal and move forward in a healthy way? Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
To whoever wants to answer, please.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Don. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for coming.
I want to start off by saying I fully appreciate the direction that this government and you are taking to move forward on the needs for indigenous people, including Inuit. Also, I'd offer a special thanks for helping save the Mamisarvik program here in Ottawa this year.
In your opening comments, you talked about a needs-based approach. I know in the north, not only in Nunavut but in the NWT and the Yukon as well, we're in the dire situation that we're in because of years of per capita funding. You mentioned in your comments, education and family violence protection, child and family services, housing, all those things. There's funding that's been announced for first nations, which is long overdue.
How do you plan on meeting that commitment for Inuit? We're not on reserve—the way I look at it, Nunavut is one big reserve—but everything flows through the Government of Nunavut. They provide those services to the population.
Maybe I can get an idea of how you plan on seeing that flow through to Inuit through the Government of Nunavut.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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