March 22, 2016 — Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, called Budget 2016 a promising first step toward renewing the relationship between Inuit and the Crown. He noted the Budget’s allocations for affordable housing, the increase in the Northern Residents’ Deduction, and the doubling of the pool of money available to Aboriginal Representational Organizations over current levels.
“It is a positive change to see Inuit as well as specific Inuit regions recognized in the budget text,” Obed said, in reference to specific housing allocations for Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
“The $170 million earmarked in the budget for building affordable housing in Inuit Nunangat is welcome given the severity of crowding in our four regions, and I look forward to working with the government to find ways to achieve the much larger investment that is necessary.”
In Nunavut, for example, it is estimated that more than 3,000 social housing units are needed to adequately house Inuit families in the territory. The budget’s Northern and Inuit housing allocation would cover the cost of building not even 200 units.
The increase in the Northern Residents Deduction from $16.50 to $22 a day is a positive measure, the first such increase in years. The Northern Residents Deduction is a modest federal subsidy that is intended to offset the high costs of living in the North.
Increased funding for Aboriginal Representative Organizations is also welcome.
“We look forward to learning more about how this increase – roughly $20 million a year over five years, in addition to the current funding level of $21 million for 46 Inuit, First Nations and Metis organizations, will affect Inuit and Inuit organizations,” Obed said.
“However I am disappointed that specific funding for Inuit mental wellness and suicide prevention is not allocated in this year’s budget. Taking action to prevent suicide in our communities is an urgent priority, and it is not acceptable that basic funding to support this vital work remains incidental year after year.”