Canadian budget “step in the right direction” says national Inuit organization

Canadian Inuit leader Natan Obed (pictured above in Ottawa in October 2017) says investments in mental health services for Inuit were missing from the year’s budget. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Canada’s national Inuit organization is calling Tuesday’s federal budget  “encouraging and constructive” even if it doesn’t completely level the playing field between Inuit and  other people in the country.

“While Inuit recognize these Budget commitments are not adequate to close the gap between Inuit and other Canadians, we recognize this budget represents a step in the right direction,”  Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) said in a news release shortly after the budget was released.

Housing, health get top investments

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced several Inuit-specific investments when he delivered the budget in the Canadian House of Commons Tuesday evening.

  • $400 million over 10 years towards Inuit-led housing plans in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec, Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region of the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, an Inuit region in Canada’s Northwest Territories and neighbouring Yukon territory.
  • $161.2 million over five years, and $32.6 million per year ongoing, for the Inuit stream of  Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, a program that focuses on training for what it describes as “higher-quality, better-paying jobs rather than rapid re-employment.”
  • $82 million over 10 years, with $6 million per year ongoing, for the co-creation of a permanent Inuit Health Survey. The investment will allow Inuit communities to develop and collect survey information and set the research agenda in their regions
 and communities.
  • $27.5 million over five years to eliminate tuberculosis in Canada’s Inuit regions, including through support of ITK’s Inuit-specific approach to tuberculosis elimination. The budget underlined that the reported rate of active tuberculosis for Inuit in 2015 was over 270 times higher than the rate among Canadian-born, non-Indigenous populations.
Canada’s minister of finance Bill Morneau walks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they leave his office on route to deliver the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Importance of Inuit led projects

ITK president Natan Obed said Inuit are the experts when it comes to the needs of their specific communities and that the budget announcements highlighted the importance of bilateral cooperation between Inuit and the government

“I am hopeful that the proposed allocations directly to Inuit, especially in the area of housing, become an established precedent for future budgets,” Obed said in a news release on Tuesday. “This approach, which enhances the efficiency and impact of federal funding allocations, must also be adopted and implemented by provincial and territorial governments.”

Mental health supports lacking

However, ITK said mental health investments for Canada’s Inuit were still lacking and needed to be addressed urgently.

“ITK looks forward to working with Canada to address gaps in this budget, such as mental health services and supports, as well as measures to eliminate gender-based violence among Inuit,” the organization said.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada announces $175 million investment in Arctic waters protection, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Faroe Islands cashing in on Russian sanctions, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: An optimistic picture for Finland’s economy in 2018, Yle News

Iceland: Norwegians and Icelanders let Alaskans in on the secrets to economic prosperity, Alaska Dispatch News

Norway: Peace and stability crucial for Arctic economy, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  2017, a year of ups and downs for Russian Arctic oil, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: EU gives financial push to battery factory in Northern Sweden, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: 5 ways Trump’s budget could pinch Alaska, Alaska Public Radio Network

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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