Brian Tagalik, right, stands outside his tent with his seven-year-old daughter, left, and 18-month-old daughter, centre. (Travis Burke/CBC North ) Brian Tagalik says the hardest part about living in a tent with his family in front of the Nunavut legislature is explaining it to his seven-year-old daughter.
"On our way there, she was crying and I was in tears and I was scared. I wasn’t sure how I was going to take care of them," Tagalik told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"She was reluctant at first, but [I was] telling her that this was going to be the hardest part. As soon as this was over, someone’s going to help us. Someone has to help us. This is our territory. We are Inuit. We are educated."
Tagalik has been staying in the tent since Sunday with his partner Pitsiulaaq Ashoona and their two little girls, one of whom is 18 months old.
They’re using a Coleman stove to stay warm, as temperatures drop below zero overnight and the winds blow as high as 60 kilometres an hour.
"Why is it we have to do this and get ourselves on this level and freeze ourselves each and every night and explain to our children at the end of the day that maybe we’re not worth it? Maybe we are not worth our government reaching their hand out to us? Maybe we are aboriginal. Maybe we aren’t worth it. And that’s painful," he said, stifling back tears.
"But I had to get through that. I had to remove the stigma of the fear of being looked at like that to help my family."
And they’re not alone. Nunavut’s housing crisis
Nunavut has faced housing shortages for years that have caused overcrowding and forced families to live in makeshift homes like tents and sheds.
In 2017, the federal government earmarked $24 million annually to help construct new housing stock in the territory. With that funding, Nunavut’s housing corporation estimates it will take over 60 years to construct the thousands of homes required to meet people’s needs.
Meanwhile, rent in Iqaluit is among the highest in the country, with the average for a two-bedroom coming in at $2,597 per month, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2017 northern housing report — far beyond Tagalik’s means. A Nunavut family has pitched a tent in front of the legislature because they have nowhere else to go and want to bring attention to the territory’s housing crisis. (Travis Burke/CBC North ) According to the report, two thirds of Nunavut’s population rely on housing assistance from their employer or the government. Tagalik’s family is pursuing both avenues.
Ashoona works five days a week for the territory’s health department, but she’s only classified as a relief worker and isn’t qualified for employee-assisted housing.
And the family is one of hundreds on the waiting list for public housing through the Nunavut Housing Authority — a process that can take years.
In an emailed statement, the Nunavut government said it has met Tagalik’s family and is working with the housing authority to "to identify ways to support the family."
"There is chronic shortage of housing across every community, and the Government of Nunavut is working hard to develop solutions with limited resources," reads the statement from the office of Elisapee Sheutiapik, Nunavut’s minister responsible for homelessnes
"Government is working to strengthen shelter services for Nunavummiut experiencing absolute homelessness and those most at-risk. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but it is a priority for the Government." A last resort The tent, Tagalik said, was a last resort, after four years of couch surfing with friends […]
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