Ottawa, Ontario – March 24, 2022
The President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Natan Obed, and the Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu, issued the following statement today:
“On World Tuberculosis Day 2022, we acknowledge that tuberculosis (TB) continues to disproportionately impact Inuit communities throughout Canada. We commit to improving the health of Inuit in Inuit Nunangat through our TB reduction and TB elimination goals.
High rates of TB across Inuit Nunangat are a symptom of the health disparities between Inuit and other Canadians, including overcrowded housing, food insecurity, barriers to health care and poverty. Between 2015-2019, the reported incidence rate of active TB disease among Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat was 300 times the rate Canadian-born non-Indigenous people. Recent reporting for active TB among Inuit has shown a decrease of 61% between 2019 and 2020.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has redirected some efforts from testing, reporting and contact tracing for other communicable diseases, including TB. While essential TB services have been maintained throughout the pandemic, it is too early to know the full impact of COVID-19 on progress toward TB elimination goals. As a result, it is important to continue to monitor TB among Inuit in the coming years to gain a longer term picture of the trends.
In 2018, the Government of Canada and ITK made a joint commitment to eliminate TB from Inuit Nunangat by 2030. The Government of Canada’s initial investment of $27.5 million has gone toward TB elimination action plans specific to each of the four regions that make up Inuit Nunangat. This work includes TB screening activities, community outreach, training community health workers, Inuit-specific research and examination of the cross-section between TB and COVID-19.
TB is both preventable and curable. Programs and initiatives are needed to break the cycle of TB across Inuit Nunangat. To that end, ITK has determined that an additional $141 million is needed over the next eight years to eliminate TB in Inuit communities.
To improve the social and economic conditions necessary for health, TB-free Inuit communities, we must:
- Acknowledge and honour the unique history and impacts of the TB epidemic on Inuit through continued support of healing projects such as the Nanilavut Initiative, which helps Inuit families locate loved ones who died of TB away from home between the 1940s and 1960s.
- Confront gaps in social determinants of Inuit health, including housing, food security and nutrition, mental wellness, equitable and culturally relevant education, and access to culturally safe health services, which have perpetuated TB in Inuit communities.
- Address 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 and uphold Canada’s human rights obligations.
- Poverty reduction through development of a model of basic income in partnership with Inuit, which would targets those living around or below a poverty line established using regional and community cost of living and income indicators.
- Minimize 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 is dedicated to working in partnership with ITK, Inuit communities and organizations, territorial governments, and other federal departments to advance TB elimination. In collaboration with various Inuit partners, strategies and plans are being developed that consider Inuit lifestyles, traditions and culture.
With Inuit experiences and voices at the forefront of our efforts, we continue to support self-determination in Inuit communities. Our joint commitments go far beyond reducing and eliminating TB in Inuit Nunangat; together, we strive to ensure Inuit prosper across all regions.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
Indigenous Services Canada
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami