Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 4 - Evidence - March 22, 2016


OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:29 a.m. to study best practices and on- going challenges relating to housing in First Nation and Inuit communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories.

Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning, everyone.

I would like to welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, either here in the room, via CPAC or on the Web.

My name is Lillian Dyck. I'm from Saskatchewan, and I have the honour and privilege of chairing the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

I will now invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves, starting with the deputy chair.

Senator Patterson: Dennis Patterson, senator for Nunavut. Good morning.

Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas from Alberta.

Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.

Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak from Ontario. Welcome.

Senator Enverga: Senator Tobias Enverga from Ontario.

Senator Watt: Charlie Watt from Nunavik. Good morning and welcome.

The Chair: Thank you, senators.

The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. This morning we are continuing to hear testimony on our Northern housing study, with a mandate to study best practices and ongoing challenges relating to housing in First Nation and Inuit communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories.

We begin today with the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Mr. Natan Obed.

Mr. Obed, I understand you have opening remarks, and then we will open the floor to questions from senators. Thank you very much. We have a second panel that will follow.

Mr. Obed, if you would start with your opening remarks, please.

Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Thank you very much, madam chair. Thank you so much for having me here this morning.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is the national representational organization that represents Canada's 60,000 Inuit. Inuit are set across a wide, vast part of Canada — 35 per cent of its land mass and over 50 per cent of its coastline. We have four specific regions where we have land claim agreements: Nunastiavut in northern Labrador, Nunavik in northern Quebec, Nunavut and then the Inuvialuit region in the Northwest Territories.

ITK works on a number of different issues related to the health, well-being and socio-economic status of Canadian Inuit. We have settled comprehensive land claim agreements that provide the foundation or the basis, if you will, for our relationship with the Crown, and also set the stage for our Inuit democracy, where each one of our beneficiaries of our four land claim agreements vote for regional presidents, and those regional presidents then vote for ITK's president.

I sit here as a representative of all Canadian Inuit and a representative of the democratic process that leads the way in which we interact with the Canadian government and all Canadians.

We've never really known a reality in our communities in which we have sustainable housing. We also have never known a reality where we've had adequate education in our own language or where we've had adequate health care. We've also never known a reality where we can enter into a relationship with Canada on our own terms, but we are certainly getting there and our self-determination is growing.

The land claims movement that started in the 1970s has shown amazing results for the ability of Inuit to mobilize, settle land claim agreements and decide what is important for us. But there is still a major gap between the way that we live our lives and the way that most Canadians live their lives. At the very heart of that is the way in which our relationship started.

It wasn't until after World War II that the Canadian government became serious in many ways about coercing Inuit into communities. Yes, there were circumstances across Inuit Nunangat which we call our homeland, where there were missionaries who settled Inuit in communities prior to World War II, or situations of starvation or incidents where it was necessary for Inuit to move from one place to another. But it wasn't really until after World War II that we had the creation of communities and widespread relocation, where some of our people were moved at the whim of government to wherever it was deemed most appropriate for Inuit to live based on the desires of the federal government.

This was also when we were first introduced to a southern style of housing. In the past, we either lived in igloos in the winter or in sod houses in the summer months. The change from our traditional way of living and our traditional way of housing to this new reality spawned a public health disaster in the 1950s, but it also fundamentally changed the relationship that we had with our community and with the land.

You have to imagine in the 1950s or 1960s what happened in our communities. People were promised housing when they were moved into communities in many cases. There are many reports of Inuit who were told that they would have free housing and that they would be taken care of if they moved into communities. What they received was either completely inadequate housing in the form of what we called matchbox housing, which is basically just a square box with no utilities and wooden walls with hardly any insulation, or in some cases where Inuit were relocated they had to provide housing themselves. They had to forage from the dump. They had to find any way they could to ensure that the housing they cobbled together was the best it could be in our Arctic environment.

We have winters that range from seven to nine months in length and need adequate housing year-round, and we had such small housing stock at the time. The first epidemic it spawned was tuberculosis in the 1950s, when at one point in the early 1960s over half of the Inuit population had spent time in southern sanatoria. The way in which that happened was Inuit were taken on ships from the Arctic and brought to southern sanatoria, and they stayed there from one to three years, and sometimes people died and some people never found their way back home.

That was one of the first major consequences of overcrowding and of a housing policy that was inadequate for the environment and the people.

It also was a time in which our society changed in many ways, whether it was through the slaughter of our dogs or residential school or many other social stressors, such as the lack of continuity of our justice system, or the fact that we had very limited control in our own communities about how we governed our affairs. All of these led to a whole host of different socio-economic issues that lead to the gaps that we still see today.

Our suicide rate elevated in conjunction with the first generation of our children who grew up in permanent settlements. You will see a historical suicide rate that is very low and would mirror the Canadian average in many ways, and then you see a huge spike that corresponds directly with that first generation of children whose parents went through so much hardship and were displaced from their lands and were set in communities where there was very little economic opportunity and severe overcrowding.

We've talked about housing as a crisis for a generation now. In 2001, ITC, at the time, produced a housing report and talked about the Inuit housing crisis in Canada. CMHC figures in 1991 stated that 26 per cent of Inuit households were overcrowded and now, here we are, 15 years later, and the latest statistics from 2011 show that 39 per cent of Inuit households are overcrowded. There has been a 50 per cent increase in overcrowding in the last 15 years. The crisis is getting worse; it is not getting better. We have a young population — our median age is 23 — and we have huge gaps in outcomes for educational attainment, median income and access to post-secondary.

The common solutions for socio-economic success and for the foundation of a private housing market still don't exist in our communities in a way that we can see a straightforward path to success through the efforts of individual Inuit, at the community level, to take more control over their lives. That is not to say that that's what we want. We want self-determination. We are a proud people, and we want to solve this issue in the long term.

I'm here just to talk about some of the foundations of this issue and the reasons why it isn't so easy to just dream up a solution and implement it that doesn't first take into consideration those foundations and the fact that this issue is now generational.

I've talked a bit about the links between housing and other socio-economic indicators, and I think the social determinants of health play together. Housing is an essential keystone or building block for the entirety of our social determinants.

When we live in overcrowded situations, we have issues with ensuring that our children are able to study at night or are able to get enough food to eat or the risk of violence that is exacerbated by too many people living together. There is also the risk for communicable disease. The fact that our tuberculosis rate remains 254 times that of non-indigenous Canadians who are born in Canada and 38 times the national average overall is an indicator of the effect that overcrowding has on our population.

Many of our people who experience violence have nowhere else to go, and so are stuck in a cycle of violence because there are no other options, other than, perhaps, moving south. We don't have the same level of services in our community for those who experience violence. All of these things are exacerbated by our housing crisis.

We can talk about innovation and new pilot projects, and we can work around the outside of this issue, but at the main heart of it, there needs to be an investment in social housing. The majority of our people still live in social housing. In Nunavik, I believe it's upwards of 95 per cent of the Inuit population that lives in social housing, and in Nunavut the vast majority of Inuit live in social housing. If you tally up our four regions, we're looking at a ballpark figure of $2 billion that's necessary just to reduce the overcrowding rate to the Canadian average. That is not taking into consideration operation and maintenance, nor is it taking into consideration our growing population.

That's a big figure, and it's one that we know, from a political angle, puts the Canadian government in a situation where if it doesn't create that investment immediately, then it may look like it's not trying or is not doing its part. But I hope that we can create a way forward that is realistic. There needs to be investment in social housing, in innovation and in working together, and there needs to be a way in which we can reduce the cost of each housing unit as it goes up. There needs to be a path to self-determination in housing.

The traditional models of private home ownership don't exist in many of our communities. Not only are they small communities with no history of a private housing market, but we don't have building inspectors, and we don't have the types of services that most people would expect from banking, so we have very limited options around how to get a mortgage. We have extremely high costs in other areas, such as food, travel and transportation.

The issue of trying to diversify our people into different housing options can happen. It just is going to happen in a very different way from what the southern housing market looks like and how solutions for Southern Canada have worked in the past, and it is also going to be generational. We are going to have to think about this in the long term and consider that we have young and growing populations and consider the limitations we have now on our overarching infrastructure. It isn't just that we need to build new homes. We have to ensure that we have power generation that isn't solely reliant on 40- and 50-year-old diesel plants. We have to have sewage treatment facilities in our communities. We have to have ports. We have to have incinerators or ways to deal with our waste that are respectful of our environment.

I think we can build Canada in a way that we've thought about building other parts of Canada. Our Canada is the same as your Canada. Josie Kusugak always used to say, "First Canadians, Canadians first,'' when he talked about how Inuit see themselves within Canada.

Based on the discussion I've brought to you today, you can see that we still have an essential building block that we need to work with Canada to achieve overarching success for our people. Housing is, as I've said, a cornerstone in ensuring that we can turn the corner and be proud and successful Canadians alongside everyone else. We also can ensure that we live in healthy homes and build healthy communities instead of building the type of risk and the types of communities that produce the socio-economic status and gaps in outcomes that we see today.

The Chair: Thank you for that presentation. You gave us a very good historical overview of why we have the situation that we have today.

Before I turn the questioning over to our deputy chair, Senator Patterson, I would like you to outline very briefly the land claim agreements that govern much of the North. I'm wondering, did the beginning of the land claim agreements alleviate the situation somewhat, and has that then decreased over time? What was the effect of the land claim agreements on the housing situation in the North?

Mr. Obed: The settlement of our land claim agreements has had varying degrees of impact, depending upon the particular agreement. The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement actually has provisions within it that allow for federal investment in social housing, and the Cree have apprised of that, whereas the Inuit are still fighting for social housing investments based on their land claim agreement.

In other jurisdictions, it hasn't been as easy to tie the implementation of land claims with reduced percentage of overcrowding or lack of housing options, basically because land claim agreements, in many ways, aren't set out to be social agreements. They're set out mostly to be certainty agreements in relationship to lands, to Aboriginal title, to any sort of economic development activities, and to wildlife and other co-management type structures.

The social structures within our land claim agreements are largely aspirational, where land claim agreements had the hope of then turning into social agreements that unlocked the potential of our people. That still is the case, but I think there are many things that haven't been implemented the way that we had hoped that they would be that then link into housing. In the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement, if there was a representational workforce, that would mean that the median income for Inuit, if that ideal were achieved, would be much higher and people would have much more money to spend on housing. The implementation of land claims is key, but I don't know of a scenario that has tied land claims directly to the specificity of overcrowding.

Senator Patterson: Welcome, and thank you for your thoughtful presentation.

I'm interested in the strategic plan you've just released for the next three years and one of your objectives for ITK. I believe you said you felt you would be judged on your success in realizing those objectives, if I heard correctly, when it was released, which is impressive.

Mr. Obed: Yes.

Senator Patterson: Quoting from your strategic plan, one of the objectives is to "assist in the development of private home ownership programs for all Inuit regions in the Arctic.'' We know that, as you said, Inuit have been self-reliant on housing before contact and are known to be a very innovative and resourceful people, surviving in the harshest climate in the world for millennia. You also pointed out this morning that the need for investment in social housing could equate to $2 billion in all of the Inuit regions; and that doesn't consider the operation and maintenance of those homes or the growing population.

We know that the Inuit population has grown at a much higher rate than the rest of Canada's population. Between 1996 and 2006, the Inuit population as a whole grew by 26 per cent, compared to non-Aboriginal people in Canada at around 8 per cent. Clearly, it's the highest population growth in Canada and perhaps one of the highest in the world.

Given the high population growth and the high cost of building, operating and maintaining those houses, private home ownership and getting Inuit to be self-sustaining, as they have been since time immemorial, really makes a lot of sense. What elements do you think are required to promote private home ownership? How can Canada facilitate that?

Mr. Obed: Aside from the question of how we get the initial investment, the question moving forward is: How do we transition back to being more self-sufficient and assert our self-determination as a people. We are now living in Canada. We ascribe to many of the values that all Canadians ascribe to. We are in a mixed economy, and the idea of home ownership from an investment standpoint is also something new. To develop a foundation of individual wealth that then can be passed down from generation to generation is something that Inuit hardly ever talk about. If we are going to succeed in Canada, we at least have to make that a consideration for how we deal with this issue overall.

As I said in my presentation, I don't think it's as easy as having to figure out how to buy our own homes and operate and maintain them, especially when the median income for many Inuit is below $30,000 and the cost of living is much higher than that. Many of our people don't have their Grade 12 or any post-secondary, trades, or the ability to be in the economy in the way that they would like to be. Also, in many of our smaller communities, there just aren't those opportunities. There are government jobs and two major retailers, but very few jobs elsewhere.

We have to look at this from a number of different facets. The first is the place where we want to get to. It would be great if we had a diverse housing market with social housing as a component but other alternatives to social housing as its core. We need to have people believe that there is a path to another option. I hesitate to call it private home ownership because I think it's going to have to be a hybrid of sorts. The reality of our people right now precludes me from saying that it's possible in the very short term to create a much larger housing market than we now have.

Such a path forward would send the idea that there can be pride in ownership or pride in renting, which decreases operation and maintenance costs, or that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel about home ownership and the fact that it's then a foundation of wealth that you can then leverage for other things you would like to achieve in your life, whether it is to own a business or to ensure that you have something to retire on. Many of our people have a hard time retiring because if their housing is tied to government employment and they don't have the ability to get a social housing unit, then people are working for the wrong reasons.

I know I'm walking around the question a little bit, but nobody really knows that path. We need to have honest and frank discussions about creating that path together. The work that you're doing here and the work that we can do as representatives of Inuit and the ideas that we can come up with and then implement will transform this from where it is today, which is a need-based perspective, to a perspective in the future that is hope-based, where many people can see themselves transitioning. Social housing in many forms is not meant to be a permanent solution for your entire life. It is a transition for people in desperate need, who always hope to make the transition to other housing options. In our reality, in Inuit Nunangat, many people don't think there are other options — it's just the way things are. We need to have that fair conversation, one that is respectful and inclusive but that imagines and implements another path to get back to self-determination and self-sustainability.

The Chair: You talked about home ownership being equivalent to the light at the end of the tunnel. Does that vision apply to the Inuit people? Is that what they envision? You were talking about getting people together to imagine and implement a new path forward. Has that process begun? Do the Inuit have that same vision of home ownership that we have in the South, or is there something a little different that would enable the community to move forward? Are we taking our view of home ownership and trying to put it on the people in the North, when that may not necessarily be their most important goal? Do we know what the most important goal is?

Mr. Obed: I would say that Inuit are proud people. We often have been in challenging times and have needed support and help, but I do believe that Inuit don't want to be dependent upon government and do want to be able to imagine and live their lives in the way that they wish and in the way that is best for them and their families.

Home ownership or a path towards something other than strictly social housing is, I do think, something that many people wish for themselves. It is a secondary wish in many cases to a wish for education or a wish for employment or wish for the ability to speak their own language in their communities or the ability to get access to health care. But in the end, if all of those things are working in concert, people would have other opportunities for housing.

The challenges that are faced by our people through the existing reality of social housing are immense, and I don't think there are many people that are satisfied or happy with the overcrowding situations that they have, or the rent scales or the waiting lists that run many years if not decades for some people.

I speak of the light at the end of the tunnel not in a southern context but one that is transformative in the way that housing happens in the Arctic, and one that I don't necessarily know what it looks like either. It is a reality that we form together but, again, it starts with the immediate need and the fact that there are huge consequences to our people, our communities and the way in which government spends and invests its funding based on our overcrowding today.

Senator Patterson: You keep mentioning overcrowding, and justifiably. Our committee will be travelling in Inuit Nunangat and we will certainly see these situations ourselves.

I'd like to bring up a very sensitive question and ask you whether it has been discussed amongst the Inuit leadership, and that is population growth. We just can't keep up. In the last Parliament, the federal government put $300 million into housing in Nunavut, and quite a few units were built, but the overcrowding situation still gets overwhelmed by natural population growth. And sometimes we talk about kids having kids. I'm sure you've heard that expression. I wonder if the Inuit leadership has ever considered that that is an issue that exacerbates the housing problem and if leaders should consider ways of addressing that. I know it's a sensitive question, but I'd like to ask you about it and whether that's come up and whether you think that's part of the problem.

Mr. Obed: I've been privileged to be a part of many discussions about Inuit societal values during my career and have heard the wisdom of many of our elders around what constitutes a healthy community and the concern about the passing on of knowledge between generations. Many Inuit who are elders now don't necessarily consider age as the indicator of readiness for parenthood. They consider the ability to care for children to be the primary delineation point between whether somebody should have a child or somebody shouldn't.

In our past, any children were such lights in our lives and also had such utility for the family group, for the small groups that we had, and so the idea that more children and healthy children are essential and wonderful parts of our lives is something that has continued to be a core piece of who we are. But the idea of who is ready for parenthood and the traditional way in which it was considered, for men being able to hunt and to be able to provide for their family and for women to be able to care for children and be able to sew skins or do other things, those are all indicators for a different place and time.

We are still the same people. We still have the same core values in society, but I do think there have to be more discussions about how we encourage our children, about how we expect our young people or anyone in our society to consider when they start a family or how that discussion takes place, and to be more consistent with the way in which our elders lived. Maturity comes at different times for different people. The idea that we have a young, growing population and that many teenagers are having kids is something that is a difficult discussion, but I think that we can place it within the Inuit societal value context. We can try to further incorporate the teachings from our elders about how we raise children, about when we have children and about the respect for all people.

If you see the numbers of children in care, if you see the amount of sexual and physical abuse that our children suffer, you know that something's amiss, and you know that there's a problem we need to address. Fifty per cent of our women have reported being sexually abused as children, 25 per cent of our men, and these are figures that imply that we are not doing as much for our children as we used to and that there is a dysfunction that is happening because of the way in which we are raising our children that did not happen in the past.

These are sensitive, difficult discussions, but we need to have them, and we need to confront our true reality. That goes just as much to the social environment as it does to issues such as housing.

I appreciate the question, and I would move this conversation back into the way Inuit have seen this issue from a traditional context. We can then advocate for the present, for those foundations to remain strong today.

Senator Tannas: Thank you for your presentation today and for being here.

I was struck by the $2 billion number, just the sheer size of that number relative to the 40,000, 50,000, somewhere in there, by my estimates. I can't remember. You actually did get a number of Inuit people. It's an enormous amount of money considering that there is housing today, such as it is. However, I decided to leave that.

I came to this committee three years ago with not very much knowledge of Aboriginal peoples and their situation and a lot of easy answers that I thought were just laying there. What I've come to appreciate is that there are no easy answers for anybody. But what there is that is encouraging me around First Nations is that there are at least 100 First Nations, maybe more, out of the 600-some, that are moving quickly and that are starting to show what can be done. We're seeing these governments and high employment and beautiful housing and a society where people are happy and flourishing.

I'm just wondering, in your communities, are there shining lights? Are there communities where, in your estimation, the picture of the future is emerging, and, if there are, could you share some of those examples for us?

Mr. Obed: We certainly do have shining lights at the individual level, and then also in community and regional mobilization, and they take many forms. We have Inuit that are now becoming doctors, and we had a whole class of lawyers in Nunavut that are doing amazing work with their degrees. Every year, we have people that are going to post- secondary and excelling and succeeding. On the individual level, from sort of a Southern perspective, we do have success stories.

We also have a tremendous amount of Inuit who believe in their culture and who believe in their language and their society and are doing all they can to ensure that they have the knowledge and the skills that their fathers and mothers and grandparents had. That also is just as exciting and transformational as those who are coming to the South and are being more involved with Southern education and then a traditional Southern model for success.

On the community level, we have a number of amazing community-based groups that provide services for our communities. In the wake of the cuts for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and other cuts for Inuit-specific community development activities, we have institutions such as Ilisaqsivik in Clyde River, Nunavut. We have amazing suicide prevention programs, some happening out of western Nunavut and other places. We have amazing work that's happening in Nunatsiavut, where I'm from, in relation to linking elders with youth in our traditional practices and sharing food. We have all sorts of things at the community level that we can talk about as being hopes for the way that we want to see our society moving forward.

In economic development, we have amazing businesses and corporations that are run by our people, and Makivik Corporation is a great example of that in northern Quebec, of having a diversified group of companies that allow for Inuit to benefit, whether it's from mining projects or from airlines.

On the land-claim level, the implementation of land claims and what it means, we have self-government in Nunatsiavut. We have discussions for self-government in Nunavik and the Inuvialuit region. We have the idea of Nunavut that was created through our land claims. We've changed the face of Canada.

There are a lot of things that we have done in the last generation that we can be very proud of. I think that the key to moving forward is the balance. Success for us is now going to be a mixed success of Southern success and Inuit success. People who are strong in Inuktitut and people who know how to hunt and fish and sew beautiful clothing are just as successful and amazing to me as anyone who has gone to the South to get education or has their own company or is very successful financially in the Southern context.

We have to have this momentum that keeps going. The idea of reconciliation and all that reconciliation means is very important to that because our sense of worth and our sense of identity had been stripped from us in many ways, in a calculated way, in a way in which the intention was to create an empty vessel that didn't have any continuity with our society or our culture or language. We've overcome that, and that also is something that is very powerful and something that I draw on every day.

I think there's a great resilience that we have, and I think that we can use that resilience to power this transformation in our society.

As to the housing options from what we have to what we want to have, I think the principles of all of that need to be at the core of it — where we are at this time in Canada, a time where the government has apologized for residential schools. The government has said that they would implement the 94 calls to action for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They have talked about honouring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I've said this a number of times, but I think those are all foundational pieces that we think of all of these issues through so that we're not thinking about Inuit in the historical way that we thought of Inuit, which is as people on the margins and people who already receive large sets of handouts or monies that somehow we aren't thankful enough for. That reality is gone, and hopefully it can be replaced with one of trying to figure out how we work together to solve these big issues, but also having acknowledgement and respect for the success that we do have today and trying to incorporate and build on those successes for how we create greater success for tomorrow.

Senator Beyak: That was an excellent presentation. You're knowledgeable, positive and very impressive. I share your sentiments. I think you answered both of my questions with your last statements. We live in northern Ontario, in Dryden. If you look at a map of Canada, there is Southern Ontario and all of the towns and cities along the border, and then there's us in northern Ontario, and then you in the far north. We have the same problem finding a balance between the past and future. A lot of the young people say to me, "I don't know if I want to live here or if I want to go South.'' It's tough, for sure, to do that. I wondered what your people feel. Do most want to live there? Do they want to come South?

You talked about new opportunities for heating, about the old diesel plants, maybe solar, maybe wind. How do they look to the future? How do they find the hope for that, and how do you convince them to stay and make that way of life the better way? We lose our kids all the time to southern Ontario too.

Mr. Obed: According to the figures that we have now, to the best of our knowledge, approximately 25 per cent of our population lives in the South. That is an ever-growing number. Even here in Ottawa, the population estimate is 3,000, which would make it, I believe, our second or third largest community if it were in Inuit Nunangat.

The reality for our people is changing, and a lot of the population shift and migration isn't necessarily because it is a conscious decision to move. There are things that force people's hands, whether it's violence in their communities or incarceration and then not being able to get back home or other socio-economic factors. If children have very severe medical conditions, we don't have the health resources to be able to help them.

There is a shift that's happening. I do believe that Inuit still are very proud of where they come from, and their heart is in our homeland. No matter where I am on the earth, the area around Nain, Nunatsiavut is my home. It always is that special place to me. All Inuit feel that way about where they're from in a way that many non-indigenous people couldn't necessarily understand.

It is not our choice and our hope that we all will live in the south. We want to live in our communities. We want to have that connection with the land. But there are many things that pull us away from that, whether that's some of the social issues that happen in our communities or whether it's the only way that you can get education or the only way that you feel you can get the job you want. We need to do more to ensure there is a diversified economy in the Arctic and that people have opportunities that allow them to stay at home and go to school.

We don't have an Arctic university. Many people don't have that ability to study in their homeland. We haven't figured out a way yet to create a model that provides a world-class education and allows for people to still maintain their residence in their communities, or at least the region they're most comfortable in.

As far as alternatives for diesel generation, we must have a lot of consideration for our environment. Solutions that may be acceptable here in the South probably won't work at minus 40 or minus 50. We need to make sure we have the investments in alternative energy sources and the capital costs for projects such as hydro projects that could be sustainable but we just don't have the capital funds for.

It is the last building block of creating an equitable Canada, one that includes all of its peoples equally in the way that we provide essential services. Our land claim agreements do not mean that we gave up our right for an equitable education system or one that meets our needs. The same is true for essential services. Canadians feel they're entitled to these things just as a part of living in this country. It's a standard of living we all should enjoy.

It is imperative that we reduce our carbon footprint. We need to be leaders in the Arctic as Inuit in helping Canada achieve its targets. We may be negligible in our output, but symbolically, we have been fighting against climate change since the late 1990s. It is affecting our world in a much more severe way than it is in the South. I hope that alternative energy production not only reduces our greenhouse-gas emissions, but also makes our energy cheaper so we would be more sustainable in our particular communities in the Arctic.

Senator Beyak: I appreciate that answer. I saw an article in Maclean's February 6 by Scott Gilmore. He talked about Canadians and the challenges we face living in the North. Whether Inuit or non-Inuit, we have a balance to find that gives us hope for the challenges we face just by living so far from the city. I really appreciate your answer. Thank you.

Senator Watt: Thank you for your excellent presentation. We all wish to see the light at the end of the tunnel on all matters we deal with. Your view is shared by everyone.

Four land claims regions have done some work, not necessarily all of them, in the field of housing. In Nunavik- Inuvik, we had to deal with the question of housing during the negotiations after the litigations because of the poor condition of our community at the time we signed the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement. The housing issue was of concern. There was really no housing to speak of during that year because everybody was living in shacks. Some people were still living in a tent during the summertime, on the tree line. But when you go further north, in wintertime, in tundra, some people were still, off and on, living in the snow house. That's how tight the lack of housing was during that time.

On the settlement of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, after signing, we went back to the federal government. It's called the Tait Report. We should put our hands on that. We went through the CATSA program. We actually succeeded, believe it or not.

The point is that the population still grows, and the requirement for capital needs also grows at the same time. So we did come out with a substantial amount of money from the federal government, which they contributed into the housing programs. That solved the day but did not solve the next day. There was still a need for more housing, which is going to continue to accumulate unless the Government of Canada realizes that the numbers are increasing and the need is also increasing. That doesn't happen often with the government. I'm sure you're aware of that. Government asks for clarity on one hand, but on the other hand, they don't leave you that much room for clarity on your side when your needs still exist. You addressed that quite correctly. Government at times has a tendency to look at their own needs and understanding and asks for clarity, but forgetting that the other side also requires clarity.

That goes to the area of the balancing act. However, when you try to go through the balancing act, there is a cost. The capital requirement and the high cost of living and transportation also factor in. This is what we're facing today.

I come from the community that is the closest one to the south. My purchasing power only represents 25 cents, not a dollar. That's a difference between Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa. They have a full dollar. In the North, we only have 25 cents.

When you come to think about the needs and where the capital is going to be coming from, at times it drives you crazy trying to come up with an answer. How are you going to meet the needs of those people when the dollar value is still way down?

That is one issue that I think maybe the committee should undertake to study at one point after the housing study, because it goes with it. You can't separate the two. Would you be inclined to agree with the concept that a need for additional dollar capital needs to be identified? The dollar value, the purchasing power, is not the same. That should also be taken into consideration. We need to come up with a new formula, even though we have a formula that is sort of attached to the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement. If it's under federal jurisdiction, they provide 75 per cent. If it's under provincial government, they also kick in 25 percent. If it's not within their jurisdictions, they kick in 25 per cent. That's the formula we have today, and the government is not living up to that. I do believe that in the Nunavik area, the government has not injected new money for quite some time.

I'm just wondering whether you are in agreement with the areas that I'm highlighting that need to be revisited by us to see what we can do with that. Maybe it can be in conjunction with the ITK, with your organizations. Maybe we can work together to exchange information and things of that nature. I leave it up to you to provide an answer the way you want.

Mr. Obed: I think the concept that the cost of doing business in the Arctic is much different than in Southern Canada is one of the most important points within the discussion about how to move forward. If you look at the Nutrition North subsidy, it imagines that food costs are much higher for all items and that there are specific subsidies for nutritious foods. Whatever we want to say about the program other than that, there is the idea and the understanding that we need to do something in that area. I think housing is no different. The concept that drives Nutrition North Canada should also drive the federal investment in Inuit Nunangat housing — the idea that it costs much more to provide housing and that the need is so great that we require a subsidy program specifically for it.

The specifics on each one of our land claim agreements and how the jurisdictions on the provincial and territorial side work with Inuit to fulfill them, I can be generally supportive but within the context of that larger idea.

The Chair: Do you have one quick question?

Senator Watt: Just a quick one. I think it's an important one. The Prime Minister himself is the minister for youth. I have brought this to the attention of my colleagues here previously. When the youngsters need to go South to get further education, it's almost guaranteed that when that person comes back, there's no housing for them. We need to do something in that field.

What I'm trying to tell my colleagues here is that this has to come from the audience; it cannot come from me. The fact is that it was raised, and it needs to be established. The idea is that we need to look into the possibility of how we can answer the needs of the youth, the ones that want further education and then want to return home. Maybe we should consider establishing a separate program for students only as encouragement to finish their schooling. We hear that a lot from the young people, saying there are a lot of times that even though they wanted to further their education, they could not because they know they will lose their house the minute they left. Then they'd be put on standby and a long list, waiting maybe two, three, four, five or even ten years. That's what's happening in the North.

If you think that could be workable, if we could establish what you call the capital, where we can get capital from the federal government, then I think because of the fact that the Prime Minister is the minister for youth, it's the time to approach things from that angle. I am personally planning to raise this issue if we travel into the Inuit communities.

The Chair: Mr. Obed, do you have a response to that?

Mr. Obed: Yes. As I mentioned, with the median age of our population being so young, at 23, it speaks to the type of housing that, in a perfect world, we would require. A lot of that housing would probably be one-bedroom units to ensure that our young people have the space they need and also feel as though they're comfortable in their own communities. In many cases, our young people have to stay at home and are in overcrowded situations, which has documented effects on mental health and also on the ability to learn if they're still in school, or on the out-migration.

I've been somebody who has hired a number of people over the years as a manager, and the number one consideration in the Arctic is always access to affordable housing. It speaks to the last question that was asked. A lot of people can't come home, and if they do, they have to submit themselves to conditions that, as a wage earner, they just don't want to. If the only option you have is to move back in with your relative or with your parents in an already overcrowded situation just to be able to work in your home community, then many people will stay in the South. That's just a reality.

We do need to have a solution that includes our reality and the fact that youth dominate a lot of the very practical issues that we need to have solutions for.

The Chair: We are out of time, but Senator Raine, if you have a quick question, please go ahead.

Senator Raine: Thank you very much for being here. I have a lot of questions. I would just ask you, if you don't mind, to do this with a follow-up. In the position that you're in, you could think a bit about it and give us some examples.

Could you provide examples of any communities in the four Inuit regions that have successfully addressed some or all of their housing challenges? If so, what contributed to their success? We notice there's a big difference in how housing is delivered, and if we're going to look for that kind of light at the end of the tunnel, we might as well focus in on what is working and how we can move forward.

Also, you mentioned matchbox houses. We know there's a lot of innovative design happening with input from people from the North to maybe make a better matchbox house. I'd like your comments and any thoughts to do with that, especially with your experience of living in the South and in the North. Thank you very much for being here.

The Chair: Mr. Obed, if you have a one-minute answer, please go ahead.

Mr. Obed: Yes. I pledge to follow up and to provide you with information about some of the best practices that are happening in the Arctic for our communities and housing.

I also could go on and on about the different innovative things that are happening in our regions about housing design, but the reality remains that we have not yet been able to find a solution for a low-cost, well-ventilated, appropriate social housing design that is acceptable to Inuit, that meets our needs, and that is also something that allows for our participation in the building and then operation and maintenance of those structures. We still need to get there. There are many architects and many people who are sympathetic and want to help. Hopefully we can work together across Inuit regions, channel those great minds that can work with us, and also our elders, who have great perspectives and essential perspectives on how to solve this, and then work together towards that solution.

The Chair: Thank you.

On our second panel today, via video conference from the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, we have Colleen O'Keefe, Director of Engineering; and Morley Linstead, Director of Policy, Research and Monitoring.

Thank you. We look forward to your presentation.

Morley Linstead, Director of Policy, Research and Monitoring, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation: I'll start. We were presented with this opportunity to speak before the committee, and we thank you for it.

From a provincial perspective here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the housing needs in our most northern communities have been talked about for many years. Oftentimes, I believe these needs were dismissed almost as maybe being a bit of an over-exaggeration due to a lack of documentation and real physical evidence of the needs that were being presented.

However, in recent years, in Nunatsiavut, in particular, there's been a great amount of effort done to provide the evidence and substantiate some of the anecdotal stories that we've heard from local governments for years. In particular, the Inuit Housing Needs Assessment was completed in 2012-13, and this needs assessment was done in collaboration with the three levels of government. It outlined very clearly the significant needs within the current housing stock in Inuit communities, particularly repairs for private housing; a need for improved energy efficiency in consideration of climate in those communities; as well as an overall lack of affordable housing options, leading to severe overcrowding and some of the social issues that can be attached to that matter.

At the same time, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has somewhat of an overrepresentation of social housing units, particularly in the largest communities in Nunatsiavut. We've also been partners with Torngat Regional Housing Association, which provides affordable housing. We've had some discussions with them and take issue with some of their policies, as well.

In addition to that, we've attempted to promote our provincial programming, particularly around home repairs in the communities, often to no avail. We're a little bit at a loss in terms of why some of the programming that we know is available never actually finds its way to those most northern communities.

Considering all those efforts, there continues to be a call for increased housing assistance. So we were happy when we got this opportunity to be able to speak to the committee, as we believe it's an opportune time to consider some different approaches to meeting the housing needs in Nunatsiavut.

Colleen is with me. She is the Director of Engineering. In the past few years, we've actually built some new units in Nain and Hopedale. She's our technical expert in terms of our construction practices in those communities.

The Chair: We're now open to questions from the senators. While they're thinking of questions, I will start off.

First of all, you indicate that you have a report that has documented the needs, and you mentioned the fact that there are some programs, for example, that deal with home repairs. I wasn't sure whether you were saying the program wasn't working or the program is there and, for some reason, is not being taken up. I wonder if you could clarify the issue around the home repair programs.

Mr. Linstead: Sure. As the social housing arm of the government here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have a number of home repair programs. Some are for general home repairs; some are particularly for energy retrofitting; and one in particular for accessibility requirements in homes.

We've found that, in the five Northern communities in Nunatsiavut, there's definitely been an under-representation of take-up in those programs. That is even in spite of my own particular efforts. I've visited all five communities, brought applications and had town meetings in those communities to promote our programming and to try to get uptake. We're a little bit at a loss as to why there hasn't been any uptake in our general provincial programming.

At the same time — and it's been almost two years ago now — we partnered with the Nunatsiavut government to deliver a tailored home repair program in those communities. We contributed financially, they matched our funds and we handed over the money for Nunatsiavut to deliver for home repairs and energy retrofits. We found that actually worked much better. There was good uptake and a number of homes were repaired.

The Chair: If I could follow up, it seems to be that funding is part of the issue. You cited a case in Nunatsiavut where you said you handed over the funds and then the program seemed to proceed. I'm wondering if part of the difficulty is due to the lack of funds available to the — well, they wouldn't necessarily be homeowners, but to the renters. Do the renters have to contribute?

Mr. Linstead: That's one difference where one of the gaps might be, actually. Our provincial programming is for homeowners. In Nunatsiavut, of course, there are some private homeowners. There are a number of people who live with Torngat Regional Housing Association, and it's hard to say who owns those homes. There's a bit of debate, even in Nunatsiavut, as the owners consider themselves renters and want Torngat Regional Housing Association to look after all repairs and modifications to their homes. However, Torngat Regional Housing asserts themselves as basically just a mortgage company and that the renters or owners actually own their own home and are responsible for their own renovations, and that's led to a bit of a divide, in and of itself, from my understanding.

Those homes would be excluded from our provincial programming because the people who live in them are considered renters, from our perspective. The dollars that we flowed to Nunatsiavut for the home repair program two years ago were to focus on private homeowners as well.

The Chair: Thank you. Do you have an idea as to how many homeowners there would be that live in homes that are close to the end of their useful shelf life, as you might put it? Is there a large percentage of homes that are past their life cycle?

Mr. Linstead: Having visited the communities, I would say yes. I'm reflecting back on some information I have here on the housing needs assessment that was completed in 2012-13. During that housing needs assessment, the Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency actually employed people to go, on the ground, from door to door and survey all the residents in the five communities. They found that approximately 75 per cent of all dwellings in the five communities were in need of major or minor repair. To some extent, 75 per cent of the homes required repairs. That includes private homeowners, Torngat Regional Housing Association homes and our own social housing unit.

The Chair: I'll now turn to our deputy chair, Senator Patterson.

Senator Patterson: Thank you for the presentation.

I'd like to ask about the authorities over housing in the region of Nunatsiavut. I understand that the Nunatsiavut government has authority over housing in the region and develops housing policy for the region and provides funding to organizations such as Torngat Regional Housing, and that Torngat oversees housing projects, including repair and construction. Could you describe the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and the Nunatsiavut government?

Mr. Linstead: In terms of the previous relationship that you just described, one of the challenges — and you may have already talked to the Nunatsiavut government about the Torngat Regional Housing Association — is that that association actually predates the Nunatsiavut government as a self-governing body. The Torngat Regional Housing Association, in and of itself, has a large governing board, and I think that although the Nunatsiavut government flows funding to them, they're rather autonomous and make a lot of decisions around housing that maybe even the Nunatsiavut government officials might not agree with or necessarily appreciate. That's a little bit of an issue that I wanted to highlight.

Outside of that, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation is separate. We're the social housing provider in the region. What seems to have happened is that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing really provides social housing to those who are most in need — those who have the lowest income — and then the Torngat Regional Housing Association provides housing to those above our income threshold. In the North, our income threshold is around $56,000, I believe, and Torngat Regional Housing tends to provide housing to those with incomes slightly above that, up to maybe even $100,000 per year.

An issue with that has turned out to be that Torngat actually has a pretty lucrative deal if you can get in there, because their rents or mortgages, however you want to describe them, are very low, at around $100 a month. We actually have people who would definitely qualify for social housing but would rather be in Torngat Regional Housing because it's a better deal for them.

Senator Patterson: Thank you. We're, of course, a committee of the federal Parliament, and we want to look at this issue from the point of view of the federal government. I wonder if you could describe how your housing corporation and, if you will, the Nunatsiavut government and the housing authorities that it funds, depend, directly or indirectly, on federal contributions. In other words, what's the role of the federal government in housing in Nunatsiavut?

Mr. Linstead: Once again, the Nunatsiavut government officials would be the more appropriate source to answer that. They have particular issues, and one that I've heard on numerous occasions is that because they're off reserve and south of 60, I believe it is, they don't qualify for federal funding as some other Inuit communities do in Canada. That is a major issue and definitely limits the flow of federal funding to those communities that they could definitely avail themselves of. The data that came out of the housing needs assessment showed 75 per cent of the dwellings being in need of major and minor repairs and 50 per cent of the dwellings in Hopedale, for example, having mould in them. There are a number of issues where increased federal funding to those communities would definitely be very advantageous and could help with some of the crisis issues that they've identified.

In terms of the province, we do not typically flow any funding specifically to those communities other than the program I mentioned earlier, where we did a one-time pilot project directly with the Nunatsiavut government. We do offer our provincial programming in those communities, so just as anybody in St. John's, Newfoundland, could avail themselves of the program, someone in Nain, Labrador, could avail themselves of it as well. That's where we've seen that we don't have a lot of uptake in those communities.

Those repair programs I referenced are mostly cost-shared between the province and the federal government, so that's how funding that comes from the federal government to the province is flowed back into those communities.

In terms of the Torngat Regional Housing Association, that is funded entirely by the Nunatsiavut government and their arrangement with the federal government. We do not flow any funding to Torngat Regional Housing Association.

Senator Patterson: That's very helpful. Just to follow up quickly: The federal department that the Newfoundland and Labrador government interfaces with on the cost-shared program would be CMHC. Is that correct?

Mr. Linstead: That's correct.

Senator Raine: I want to follow up on your comment that some people who qualified for your subsidized housing would rather get the Torngat-provided housing because it was a better deal. Was that better in terms of the monthly cost or the quality of the unit?

Mr. Linstead: The monthly cost. It's about $100 a month.

Senator Raine: What is the monthly cost for the housing provided by Newfoundland and Labrador housing?

Mr. Linstead: Twenty-five per cent of income, RGI, rent geared to income, so 25 per cent of your income.

Senator Enverga: Thank you for the presentation. There was a review about the request for proposals last year. I think it was May 2015. It's about proposals for housing delivery. It says there that the Nunatsiavut Government indicated that 47 per cent of the homes in Nunatsiavut are owned by residents. Based on available information, this figure is the highest of the four Inuit regions.

What is your view on why do more individuals in Nunatsiavut own their homes than in any other Inuit region?

Mr. Linstead: That data was probably generated from the housing needs assessment when all the residents were interviewed in 2012-13. That's a tough one to answer. For some people, it's the definition of owning a home. Some people who live in Torngat Regional Housing believe they own their home and some people believe they rent, so there is a bit of divide there, as I mentioned earlier.

I believe it might go back to the skill sets of the individuals. There are a lot of people who have the ability to build their own homes, and so there's not reliance there upon a contracting firm to build a home or whatnot. A lot of sweat equity has gone into a lot of homes, so a lot of people have constructed their own homes over the years.

Senator Enverga: Are you saying that the 47 per cent is inaccurate?

Mr. Linstead: No.

Senator Enverga: It's not inaccurate; good.

Mr. Linstead: I'm not saying that, no.

Senator Enverga: You said it could be what they think. That's what you just told us a while ago.

Mr. Linstead: I'm saying that the 47 per cent that's been quoted to you is self-identified, so it is possible that some of the people who have self-identified as owning a home actually live in Torngat Regional Housing Association homes. It's really a matter of debate as to whether they actually own the homes or if Torngat Regional Housing owns the home. If you own your home, unless you can't pay your mortgage and the bank comes and takes your home, you're not going to get evicted from your house. With Torngat Regional Housing, even though they claim that you own your own home and your $100 dollar per month payment is a mortgage payment per se, you can get evicted from your Torngat Regional Housing home and your home given to someone else, for example. It's a really murky area.

Senator Enverga: Yes, but if you think it's more or less 47 per cent, how can we improve it? Is there a way to improve it to 50 or 60 per cent? What are the factors that we require so that we can improve the situation?

Mr. Linstead: In terms of improving the understanding of the situation or in terms of increasing homeownership? I'm not sure of the question, sorry.

Senator Enverga: Can we know both ways? That is, regarding the situation right now and how we can improve it better?

Mr. Linstead: I'd be happy to speak to the Newfoundland and Labrador statistics agency who conducted the survey to check the data as to the specific breakdown of privately owned homes versus Torngat Regional Housing homes versus social housing homes owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. I can do that for you. I know we have done that in the past. I just don't have it in front of me right now.

In terms of improving the situation, I think the biggest thing to improve the situation is for Torngat Regional Housing or for the Nunatsiavut Government, through Torngat Regional Housing, to really clarify what their relationship is to the renter or homeowner. If it's truly a mortgage relationship and the person owns the home, then they need to establish that relationship and make sure that everybody is aware of that. Obviously, that plays a significant role even in terms of upkeep of a home because if you believe you are a renter of a home, you want your landlords to step in and do renovations when renovations are required on your home. However, if you own the home, the onus is upon you to do repairs to the home. Anecdotally, a number of houses in the region have fallen into disrepair because of this divide over who actually owns the unit.

Senator Enverga: It would be appreciated if you could give us some details because if everything is true, it could be a great model for the whole community.

The Chair: If I could follow up with a short question as a supplementary, about what percentage of homes are covered by the Torngat Regional Housing Association? Would it represent half of the homes or a quarter? Maybe you have told us that and I missed it.

Mr. Linstead: No. I don't have that data in front of me right now, but I will get it and report back to the committee.

The Chair: You said something and I didn't quite catch it about whether a person living in one of those Torngat homes can be evicted or cannot be evicted.

Mr. Linstead: They can be.

The Chair: They can be evicted. Thank you.

Mr. Linstead: That's my understanding.

Senator Moore: Thank you, witnesses, for being here.

I want to follow up on the chair's question. It sounds to me like there's not a fulsome relationship between your office and Torngat Regional Housing because you don't seem to have the answers to some of these fundamental questions. Does your office have any authority or jurisdiction with regard to the Torngat association?

Mr. Linstead: No, we do not. They're an independent association governed by an independent body, a board of directors.

Senator Moore: In 2012, when you did the survey, your survey included Torngat housing as well, right? I think you said that.

Mr. Linstead: Yes.

Senator Moore: When you did that survey, Mr. Linstead, did you ask these types of questions that members here are asking today about the relationship? Did you ask the tenant or did you go to the actual people, the association management, to decide whether or not the people own it with a mortgage, or are they tenants and paying rent? Did you ask those questions?

Mr. Linstead: We just asked the question if it was a Torngat Regional Housing home or if it was a privately owned home. The association itself would tell you that the individuals own the home, that they are just a mortgage company and that the individuals in the units are paying them a monthly mortgage fee. Many of the owners or renters, however you want to describe them, residents, might see it that way, too, but many of them, we've heard, do not. They see it as a rental payment, and they expect Torngat Regional Housing Association to have the same sort of relationship with them as the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation would, but Torngat doesn't see it that way.

Senator Moore: Well, when an occupant takes over occupancy of a unit, is a lease signed, or is there a deed to them or some type of 99-year lease? What is the legal structure here?

Mr. Linstead: That has changed in recent years. I would implore your committee to ask those questions of the Nunatsiavut Government and/or Torngat Regional Housing when you meet with them, because in the past it has been an one-page agreement that was signed and it really did look like a lease. But in light of these criticisms, they have changed that agreement and it is now a longer document that looks a lot more like a mortgage. Changing the perception on the ground is still a lot different and falls outside what a piece of paper looks like.

Senator Moore: Did I hear you say that people pay rent of $100 a month in these Torngat units, but they could be earning anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year in income? Is that what you said?

Mr. Linstead: I did say that. That's one of the issues we take as a problem with Torngat Regional Housing.

Senator Moore: I just bet.

Mr. Linstead: The Nunatsiavut Government does so as well.

Senator Moore: It doesn't seem to be very equitable.

In 2012, you did your housing needs assessment. Did you do one before that and, if so, when?

Mr. Linstead: I don't recall there ever being one before that.

Senator Moore: You don't have any sort of comparisons to see if housing stock has been maintained or if it's become noticeably worse in a shorter period of time. You don't have anything to compare.

Mr. Linstead: Unfortunately, no.

Senator Moore: Do you plan to do another one? That was about four years ago. Are you thinking of doing another one to update your records and do some comparisons?

Mr. Linstead: That's not in the plans right now, but meetings are scheduled between my minister and Nunatsiavut Government officials in the coming weeks, and I suspect that will be one agenda item to discuss further.

Senator Moore: Something like that would certainly be useful to our committee.

Senator Patterson: The $700,000 in funding, which was cost shared between your corporation and the Nunatsiavut Government in 2014, was for the repair of houses in Nain and Hopedale. Can you give us now or later a report on how effectively that money was spent and whether that program was worthwhile, please?

Mr. Linstead: I believe that the program was worthwhile. In Nunatsiavut, the president of the corporation has recently come forward to our new premier to ask for a continuation of the program. Of course, we're going through a budgetary process right now so we'll see where that lies. Through that one-time funding, Nunatsiavut was able to provide assistance to 24 homes: 5 homes in Nain and Hopedale saw extensive repairs, upwards of $30,000-plus in major repairs; and 19 additional homes underwent significant attic retrofits to make them more energy efficient. In total, 24 households received assistance under that program.

In addition, because Nunatsiavut is on the ground in those communities, we were able to partner with them to get some work done on some social housing units and bundle that with this work under one contractor to receive some efficiencies while getting some work done on social housing units in the region.

Senator Patterson: We've been hearing about how the social housing program in the Inuit regions, including probably Nunatsiavut, is basically difficult to sustain because the costs of social housing are significant and the population is growing rapidly. Some people have described that as being unsustainable.

If private homeownership is the way to stop the drain of public funds in operation and maintenance, and since it seems like there is quite a bit of private homeownership in Nunatsiavut, could you say who should lead an initiative to create more private homeownership in this region? Could your corporation take on that responsibility?

Mr. Linstead: Based on my experience with provincial uptake of programming in the communities versus even the $700,000 program that you just asked about, my personal opinion would lean towards the Nunatsiavut Government in their self-governing capacity to lead that initiative with support from the provincial and federal governments in terms of capital.

Senator Patterson: Do you have a presence in the region? Do you have people and offices there, or how is your work implemented?

Mr. Linstead: The closest office we have to the five communities is in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We did have a presence in Nain in terms of a maintenance worker, but he recently wanted to leave for various reasons. We do not have an on-the-ground presence in any of the five communities right now. A lot of the work we do when needed is either done by private contractors or by staff moved there for short periods of time.

The Chair: I would ask you to put on your thinking caps: If you were able to make one or two recommendations to this committee, what would they be?

While you're thinking about that, I'll ask a question to the engineer. Ms. O'Keefe, I understand that you've been working on developing some innovative solutions to provide homes in the Arctic that are better insulated and more environmentally friendly. Could you briefly tell us whether those homes have worked out to the expectations you predicted?

Colleen O'Keefe, Director of Engineering, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation: Certainly. Most recently, we built four new units in Nain and four new units in Hopedale. Construction was completed in 2011. Each project cost roughly $1 million, so generally $250,000 per unit, which is expensive.

I don't know if I'd categorize the construction as innovative. We did focus on energy efficiency certainly, and some of the energy efficiency design certainly met and in some aspects exceeded the national building code requirements. In general, though, I would say that we like to keep the design simple and low maintenance. At this point, we have not gotten into more innovative technologies, such as heat pumps or anything similar to that. The maintenance requirements would be prohibitive, I think.

The Chair: You said that most of these units are built to be energy efficient. Is that right?

Ms. O'Keefe: Yes. The four units in Hopedale are electric-heat sourced, and the four in Nain are heated by fuel oil systems.

Mr. Linstead: We've discussed this at length, with the questions asked around the inequities in particular that have evolved over time even between social housing and what's being offered by Torngat Regional Housing Association. I met with President Leo from the Nunatsiavut on this with the minister. There was an acknowledgment even from the president that the Nunatsiavut Government proper does not always agree with the decisions of the autonomous board that oversees the Torngat Regional Housing Association.

So I would like to see more of a presence or forcefulness behind the Nunatsiavut government in terms of directing what Torngat Regional Housing Association does and who they are helping.

In the past, we've had discussions with Torngat Regional Housing Association around taking over Newfoundland and Labrador Housing social housing units, because they have staff on the ground and they can do maintenance work if necessary and those sorts of things. They even have better access to the contractors in the area. We've had some discussions on that in the past, but they've fallen to the wayside. I don't think they were ready to take on our stock of units.

I think we would advocate that Nunatsiavut government, as a government, be more involved in delivering projects and housing. We have seen from the one-time program that we discussed — the home repair program — that they can actually do the work that we're doing there. I think building that relationship with the Nunatsiavut government is the way to go in future for us.

The Chair: Thank you so much.

Just looking at the information we had handed to us by our very capable analysts, it says that Torngat Regional Housing Association currently owns slightly over 40 per cent of housing in the five communities, so it represents a very significant portion of the homes.

Senator Moore: Of the total of how many houses?

The Chair: Senator Moore has just asked how many houses.

Senator Moore: Yes, 40 per cent of what?

The Chair: We can look into that later. If you have that number, you could also send it to us with the other information.

I want to thank you very much, Colleen O'Keefe and Morley Linstead, for appearing before the committee via video conference and for making a very good recommendation.

If there are no final questions — and I see none forthcoming — we shall end the meeting. Thank you all very much.

(The committee adjourned.)

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