A voice from the North by aura carreño, sydney van der velde and maria de teresa

“[I] am just mad because we got an army that can help people around the world, yet [they] can’t help [their] own elders,” says Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau, a 29-year-old Inuk born in Saskatchewan who only wants the elders in his community to have a decent life.

Inuqtaqau has a focus, which is to provide the Inuit with housing and jobs.

He started a petition to make housing available for the Inuit. Inuqtaqau went door-to-door on foot to gather signatures.

According to Inuqtaqau‎, a one-bedroom apartment can cost up to $2,500 plus $1,200 monthly for utilities and the grocery bills can be over $700 weekly.

In addition to this, it is very hard for the Inuits to afford their basic needs because of the lack of jobs and education.

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement states in article 23 that each government organization should have an Inuit employment plan to keep employment of Inuit at a representative level. However, Inuqtaqau says that’s not the reality of the situation.

“Over the years, Inuit’s never were number one priority, when it comes to jobs,” Inuqtaqau‎ continues. He says the whole situation is unbelievable.

“[The government] trains the southerners instead of the locals,” says Inuqtaqau‎, he adds that this has been an on-going issue for years.

The staff at Tim Hortons North West Location did not comment on this issue.

As money is tight, the people in the south try to raise awareness for the lack of necessities. One case of this is the Facebook group “Helping Our Northern Neighbours.”

In the group, people in the south get connected online with people in Nunavut to send donations. Inuqtaqau receives donations intended for the elders. However, most people in the north cannot even afford an internet service.

In Inuqtaqau’s case, he only gets access to the internet when his girlfriend comes back from work or lunch to use her hotspot (wireless access point). He says that it is easier to contact him by text because internet is very expensive.

Inuqtaqau sees the elders every day. Through the Facebook group, he receives donations that he then gives to the elders.

On the other hand, Zoya Martin, the chair member of the Niqnik Nuatsivik Nunavut Food Bank said, "We help elders by handing out food to them - sometimes they come themselves to the distribution to collect the food, sometimes others come for them."

Martin said that the only time they don't distribute food is when the food is damaged, expired or not edible, which is "for the safety of our clientele."

"[We] are doing the best we can to help those in need with what we are given," said Martin.

Inuqtaqau‎ reported an incident in the Facebook group where he received Tim Hortons’ gift cards to buy food for the elders. Unfortunately, the cards were not accepted. Inuqtaqau‎ apologized to the donor saying, “please don’t send gift cards, they work all around Canada, but not in Nunavut.” He said the staff, which was non-Inuit, was rude and unwilling to help.

On the other hand, Derek Reimer, director of business development of the North West Company said to APT National News, he would look in to the Tim Hortons situation but could not currently accept these cards.

Inuqtaqau‎ says, “[The Inuit] got no voice to Canada’s government.” He continues to say that what really saddens him, is the fact that “Inuit’s [have] always tried but [have had] no luck.”

“How can non-Inuit call Nunavut home when [Inuit] can’t even call it that?” he adds.

“We just want [the] rights [that] everyone else has,” says Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau. “The rights to have job training and housing and give elders a home around Nunavut, not just Iqaluit.” He says he hopes to get his culture back, along with the language and reasonable living prices.

Credits:

Qaumariaq Inuqtaqau

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