Nunavik: Housing shortage contributes to housing slowdown

Quebec entrepreneur Daniel Gadbois is usually out hunting this time of year. He currently works 10 to 12 hours a day. (Photo: Canadian Press)

Kuujjuaq — Quebec entrepreneur Daniel Gadbois is mostly out hunting this time of year as flocks of Canada geese reappear in their V formations in the skies off Nunavik and return to their northern Quebec breeding grounds.

This is the signal for him and many other hunters from his native Kuujjuaq to investigate the hunting grounds.

But today, the electrician works 10-12 hours a day as businesses and governments scramble to fill a critical housing shortage.

“The north is growing too fast,” said Gadbois.

Statistics Canada’s 2020 population projections show that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories will have the youngest median populations in Canada for the past four decades, well below the Canadian average. A survey of Nunavik’s population, conducted between 2006 and 2016, shows that it grew much faster, at 22%, than the rest of Quebec at 8%. During this ten-year period, a third of Nunavik’s residents were under 15 years old.

Daniel Gadbois, President of Services Ikumak, comes from an entrepreneurial family. One of his brothers owns a plumbing and heating business and the other is a carpenter.

These are local businesses that build homes in northern communities. But even for housing of artisans, there are housing problems in this region.

To fulfill his contracts, Daniel Gadbois hires the services of eight employees of a company near Val-d’Or, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, by paying for their flights, food, accommodation and salaries.

Mr. Gadbois discovers that all his profits are invested in renting housing for someone who goes back and forth.

Daniel Gadbois and his family lived in southern Quebec while he completed his certification. He missed his home in the northern region, but he also wanted his daughter to receive the best possible education in the south.

When it was time to return to the north, the family sold their house and applied for housing in Nunavik; there she learned that there was a three-year waiting list to get one.

Daniel Gadbois therefore built his house in Kuujjuaq, but he is well aware that it is not something everyone can do, especially as the short construction season and remoteness of suppliers make the challenge even more challenging.

The Canadian government’s most recent budget has allocated $150 million over two years to support affordable housing and related infrastructure in the north.

Last Friday, MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski in the House of Commons, Niki Ashton of the New Democratic Party (NDP), stated that this amount was far from sufficient to solve the housing crisis in Aboriginal communities.

In response, Indigenous Services Secretary Marc Miller said the housing commitments will be a game-changer while acknowledging they are not enough.

The socio-cultural Inuit organization Tapiriit Kanatami calls the budget commitments an important step in the right direction. The president, Natan Obed, points out that the Inuit’s housing crisis is both particularly acute and protracted.

At Services Ikumak, Daniel Gadbois employs three Nunavik employees and is committed to encouraging more young people to learn crafts.

“There are a lot of young people who have an interest in leaving their hometowns and their overcrowded homes, because that’s really the problem. You can easily find seven or eight people in a two-bedroom house.

Mr. Gadbois would like to see a trade school established in Nunavik to train the next generation. Right now, most Nunavik residents who want to get an education do what he did himself: go to the southern regions, to schools in Quebec and Ontario.

Daniel Gadbois points out, however, that “for someone who has never really been to the south, who has spent his entire life in the north, it’s kind of culture shock”.

Still, he remains optimistic and reports that he sees positive changes happening, bearing in mind that nothing happens overnight.

Leave a Comment