Thank you, Madam Chair.
I carry a lot of passion and strength, and I think the majority of that comes from my family but also from my constituents.
Before I really dive into anything, I just want to mention a couple of things.
I often wear these earrings, made by a young lady in Nunavik, who is working on graduating and has young children with her. My support of her means that she is able to attend school. The sealskin bracelet is from a Canadian Roots Exchange event that brought together hundreds of individuals, indigenous and non-indigenous, from across the country. I wear a HopePact bracelet from the We Matter campaign, which promotes youth by creating positive messages to share with one another. Often for indigenous peoples we see very devastating rates of violence and suicide, so it's a platform that allows for positive messaging to be sent out. In regard to yesterday, as well, I also have on a MMIWG red dress to show support and solidarity with our stolen and missing indigenous sisters, and to promote that awareness as well. I have kamik or sealskin boots on, which you can't see. Those come from Arviligjuaq. It's really important and it directly, in my view, reflects the challenges we face all too often as indigenous peoples, but also the beauty and strength that comes from it.
When I walk around, and especially here in the House of Commons, I like to think that I'm representing more than what you sometimes see me standing here for.
COVID-19 and our time during this pandemic have done a lot to highlight all the inequalities that we see in my riding, throughout Nunavut and throughout Inuit Nunangat, throughout communities that contain a majority of indigenous peoples. This pandemic has done nothing but shine that bright light on things we often hear, especially here in the House of Commons, which we know are still issues.
The frustrating aspect about that is that there are a lot of things that could have been prevented if measures had been taken so that my constituents weren't as frustrated or stressed or scared. There are so many unanswered questions, Madam Chair.
These inequalities are something we've been experiencing in the territory for decades and on which we've been needing action for a long time. When I'm talking about action, I'm talking about basic human rights. I'm talking about the fundamental aspects of being a human being and being in this country and being a Canadian. I'm talking about year-round clean drinking water. I'm talking about being able to afford to feed yourself and your family. I'm talking about a safe place to live. That is not what I, as the representative of an entire territory, should be standing here talking about in 2020. If we are going to come out of this pandemic in a manageable state, the federal government must address these basic human rights that we need to see more of throughout my riding.
Frustratingly, we've been seeing funding being promised but not actually coming to the territory. It has been asked for three times. One of my colleagues asked during a finance committee meeting when the territory could expect to see that money. I asked at my committee as well. And here I am asking for a third time, still with no answers.
Luckily, we do not have any confirmed positive cases yet. We had an incident in the territory, in Pond Inlet, that was deemed to be a false positive. Pond Inlet is also already facing major issues with water infrastructure and access to clean drinkable water. They have been facing these since October, well before this pandemic.
I would really love to give credit to the Government of Nunavut, to the chief public health officer and to Pond Inlet for reacting so quickly and already having their plan in place, and using the limited resources and equipment they have to respond to it so well.
As I've also mentioned...and I hope I don't have to do it for much longer, but I'm going to do it until it's something that is actually addressed. For so many of my constituents, so many Nunavummiut, primarily Inuit, and we see this throughout Inuit Nunangat as well, throughout the four regions, housing is a major issue. It's the lack of housing, and also housing that is black mould-infested. I get dozens of pictures all the time, and it's absolutely appalling what people are living in. We know this is an issue, and we've heard it from multiple individuals in the House of Commons that we know these are still issues.
The last federal budget, unfortunately, resulted this year in even less housing than we've seen in previous years. Already we have that glaring gap, but we're seeing things being cut from us.
The rates of respiratory illness are very high in my constituency. Tuberculosis, for Nunavummiut versus non-Nunavummiut, is still 290 times the rate. I believe it's even worse in Nunavik. Tuberculosis is an issue throughout Inuit Nunangat, and we continue to see.... I don't even know if I can say “failed efforts”, because I don't even know how much effort has actually been put in.
Nunavut unfortunately only has seven ventilator units. If there are any more pressing health concerns that might require even minor surgery, things like having a child, most often we see people having to leave the territory. Can you imagine having your first child and not being able to be around your family and friends, because you can't even have a child in your home community?
Heath services have been very much lacking for a long time. We need further clarification as to how and when the federal government will make key items like personal protective equipment come to the territory. That is something that I know is pressing throughout the country, but these are also opportunities to start initiatives where we get to work with our seamstresses. We can promote items that create the well-being of the community, that sense of community.
We've been waiting for critical answers on resources and services for weeks from multiple ministers. As I have said before, I continue to see no concrete answers. A lot of the time we are forced, as Nunavummiut and Inuit, to accommodate a southern way of thinking or a southern way of doing things, when accessing resources and services is already so limited. A lot of the time it doesn't even make sense. It doesn't have the culture of humility aspect.
As I had previously mentioned, medevacs and serious conditions need to be sent out of the territory. As of right now, my riding has one of the most, if not the most, restrictive travel policies around it. All of the surgeries that can be put on hold are now put on hold. We need to ensure that when we come to what our new normal is we are not facing backlogs and we don't have people who potentially have serious illnesses now because they've had to wait for their surgeries or their follow-ups. We need to make sure there is a plan for individuals past this pandemic.
We see a lot of wait times for getting our testing results back. Luckily, I have very patient constituents in my riding, because it's frustrating. The housing that I've mentioned, already being in overcrowding, already not having as much access to food, to water, these are all issues. How can we be asking Canadians to do these things when those services and resources are not even there to begin with?
During normal times, Nunavummiut in some communities in particular, more than others, especially during our spring melt, see that inconsistency of clean drinking water year-round. This is when we see a lot of boil water advisories. This is when we see infrastructure often failing because of our circumstances in the north.
How are we supposed to ask a community to make sure they're constantly washing their hands and to make sure they're disinfecting and keeping their homes clean when the community doesn't even have the infrastructure to provide accessible clean drinking water?
I also had the opportunity to talk at committee about Internet service in my communities. It's not great, to put it nicely. I don't know if I could participate in virtual Parliament from my riding. I cannot confidently say that I could. The number of megabits per second and that kind of stuff in some communities is absolutely devastating.
Now, a lot of the time we talk about individual effects. What we don't talk about are the bigger items. When you're applying for Government of Nunavut identification or your driver's licence, because of the lack of bandwidth it actually gets sent down here to Ottawa and then sent back to our communities. We have people who wait months. I have constituents reaching out to me who are sometimes waiting for over a year for their piece of ID.
How are they going to access the many things that are tied to that? There are so many things you need that information for. I guess it's a glimpse of the reality that something as big as that, which should be accessible, is not. Also, how are we going to ask you to work from home on that poor bandwidth? How are we going to ask you to access online resources for your children in school? These are the kinds of things that aren't taken into full consideration, I think, especially when it comes to my riding. Even though it seems like one smaller aspect, the trickle effect, with the connectivity that it has to so many other issues in my riding, is very alive and well, unfortunately.
Take access to banking services, whether online or not. In my hometown, I've been with a particular bank for a number of years. I could never access that service except by phone, because we don't have a branch in my hometown. The next branch is a 40-minute plane ride and about an $800 ticket. That doesn't make sense. Accessibility is something that is so key, and it is something that is very much failing in my riding.
We have seen announcements made, like the $25 million for the nutrition north program. That program does not at all address the root cause of food insecurity in my riding. There are so many issues in that program already. Layer on a pandemic, and it doesn't make sense for my riding and my constituents even more so.
As I mentioned, the Government of Nunavut is still waiting for the $30.8 million that was promised out of the $42 million requested. I hope to have an answer soon on that. I will keep pushing until I do. We're still waiting to hear more information about the support from territorial grants and the Canada emergency student benefit, in direct relation to providing assistance to our students.
We are still seeing so many holes in the small business loans. CERB sometimes is inaccessible for my constituents. I have so many jewellers, carvers, musicians, artists, artisans and so many other people being left out. This is across the country as well. Many indigenous artists and artisans are falling through the cracks.
With all this being said, I would like to try to put it into perspective as, I guess, a race. Let's say we were all lined up together and were told this at the start: “Please step forward if you grew up in a safe, comfortable home that wasn't overcrowded.” I would need to stand back. “Step forward if you've never been affected by suicide.” I would need to step back. “Step forward if you can afford to feed your family.” In so many instances, I, as a representative of my constituents, would be at that same line while so many other people would be way ahead of me already.
That's the gap right there. That's what we need to close.
Help me assist my constituents to have an equal starting line so that they are able to do the things that we all should be able to do in life as Canadians with every equal opportunity.