An Inuit-rights advocate says he’s banging into walls when it comes to getting help for the homeless from Nunavut politicians.
Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau runs the Facebook page Shame on Canada.
It’s where he posts candid interviews about social problems in the northern territory, with a special focus on dozens of people that live in unheated shacks despite the freezing cold temperatures.
In a video posted to the site last week, Inuqtaqau questioned Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa in an ambush-style video.
“…Could we go to the shacks? Could I show you?” Inuqtaqau says of the plywood homes just down the road.
But Quassa says, “I’m very busy right now,” before getting into a car and driving away.
Last week he filmed former premier Paul Okalik leaving a grocery store.
“Can we go to the shacks? I want to show you the shacks,” Inuqtaqau is heard asking on this video:
“You guys are Inuk leaders.”
But Okalik declined.
“No, I’m not a leader,” he said, while holding a bunch of bananas and a bottle of Perrier water.
Okalik was with his partner, Aluki Kotierk, who is president of the land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), which promotes Inuit rights and job training.
They both know Inuqtaqau and signed a petition he distributed in 2016 calling for more Inuit to be hired by local employers.
But on the video Kotierk appears to ignore him and get into a vehicle without saying anything.
“Ok, thanks. It’s going online,” Inuqtaqau says of the video.
Okalik, who could not be reached for comment, is no longer a public official. He was twice premier of the territory and twice elected a member of the legislative assembly. He ran again last fall but was defeated.
A spokesperson for Kotierk declined to make her available for an interview Tuesday.
APTN has reported on Inuqtaqau’s petition and lack of affordable housing in depth. Most recently in a documentary that can be viewed here.
“If you Google my name you see I’ve been working on this for two years,” Inuqtaqau said in a telephone interview.
“People in the shacks are suicidal, depressed. Meantime, our Inuk leaders choose to ignore them.”
APTN tried to interview Quassa last week in Ottawa at the annual Northern Lights Conference. But his spokesperson said he was too busy.
She said he was travelling Tuesday and unavailable for a telephone interview.
“They treat their own people like second-class citizens. We’re ghosts to them,” said Inuqtaqau. “If they’re not going to talk about it I might as well confront them on camera.”
Meanwhile, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett told APTN in January she is interested in visiting the shacks.
Inuqtaqau said he would like to introduce her to some of the people living there. Some of whom, he said, have been waiting for housing for 10 years.
Others, he said, are working but can’t afford to buy a house or rent a two-bedroom apartment for $2,600 a month in one of the most expensive cities to live in Canada.