March 24, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario
The President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Natan Obed, and the Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, issued the following statement today:
“On World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021, we reaffirm our joint commitment to improving the health of Inuit across Inuit Nunangat through our TB reduction and elimination milestones.
As of 2018, the active TB incidence rate among Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat was more than 300 times the rate for Canadian-born non-Indigenous people. In March 2018, in an effort to address these alarming numbers, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Government of Canada committed to reducing active TB by 50% by 2025 and to eliminating TB across Inuit Nunangat by 2030.
Persistently high rates of TB across Inuit Nunangat are a symptom of health disparities, which are rooted in colonization. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the depth and breadth of inequities faced by Inuit communities that create unjust health outcomes for Inuit.
The pandemic and resulting shift of public health priorities and resources to protect communities from COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on TB programs in all Inuit regions. While the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB is not yet known, there is concern that due to public health restrictions and the shifting focus away from TB, access to screening and diagnostic services may result in undetected TB cases in communities.
Despite the unknowns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in collaboration across all levels of government and with Indigenous partners, as well as increased COVID-19 point-of-care testing in communities. We are committed to building on these opportunities and supporting Inuit communities to address any barriers that affect the health of Inuit in our collaborative work toward TB elimination.
Adequate, ongoing and targeted actions and investments are needed to develop and support the social and economic conditions necessary for healthy, TB-free Inuit communities. Key areas of focus include:
- Acknowledging and honouring the unique history and impacts of the TB epidemic on Inuit through continued support of healing projects such as the Nanilavut Initiative in accordance with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, 16.46.
- Confronting gaps in social determinants of Inuit health that have perpetuated TB in Inuit communities, including housing, food security and nutrition, mental wellness, equitable and culturally relevant education, and access to culturally safe health services.
- Addressing social and economic infrastructure gaps through major new investments in infrastructure, including the creation of an Inuit Nunangat Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the distribution of resources required to close the infrastructure gap, as well as to achieve the goals of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and uphold Canada’s human rights obligations.
- Poverty reduction through development of a model of basic income in partnership with Inuit that targets those living around or below a poverty line established using regional and community cost of living and income indicators.
- Minimizing major data, research and policy gaps throughout Inuit Nunangat, especially those that impact health, and specifically TB, through the support of Inuit-led data partnerships.
The Government of Canada acknowledges the need to work in partnership with Inuit communities and organizations, territorial governments, and other federal departments to advance these five key areas. Budget 2018 announced $27.5 million over five years to support Inuit-specific approaches to TB elimination; in addition to $640 million over 10 years announced in Budgets 2017 and 2018 addressing Inuit Nunangat housing needs.
TB is both preventable and curable, requiring meaningful and concrete actions to build upon progress made over the past years. To look toward a future free of TB in Inuit Nunangat, we must first better address poverty, food insecurity, and inadequate housing. Together, we must recognize historical impacts and injustices to move forward in the reconciliation journey. And to end TB across Inuit Nunangat once and for all, we must ensure that Inuit voices and communities are heard and lead in the work ahead.”