The National Right to Housing Network released a new report in August called Stark Truths, highlighting the state of housing-related human rights violations in remote and northern Indigenous communities.
The report was proposed, envisioned, and led by Inuit right-to-housing advocates Janine Harvey and Lisa Alikamik of Ulukhaktok who, in late 2022 and early 2023, conducted approximately 60 surveys and interviews about people’s housing experiences in three communities across NWT: Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Ulukhaktok.
“Legacies of colonial displacement, dislocation, and inadequate investment have led to small Inuit communities in the northern territories becoming spaces of inopportunity, poverty, insufficient infrastructure, and deeply inadequate housing,” the report states. “These conditions are among the worst in Canada, yet studies on these housing issues have been predominantly informed by southern, settler researchers and methods—if any research is conducted at all.”
Below are recommendations brought forward from participants and community members who have lived experience with housing in the North, or who have stayed in shelters or experienced unsheltered homelessness.
Participants identified a “wishlist” of housing policy changes in the North. At the centre of this wish list is the need for governments to ensure that adequate housing is available for everyone.
1. Alternative housing: Adequate housing cannot just mean any building with four walls and a roof. Alternatives must be available for people that meet their needs—including cultural adequacy.
2. Safe housing
3. Affordable housing
4. Shorter waitlists for housing: With severe winter weather, the consequences of being on a waitlist for housing can be devastating.
5. Renovations: Many are living in housing with unsafe conditions. Renovations should be completed in a timely manner.
6. Appointment of advocacy workers (such as a Northwest Territories Housing Advocate): this would mean someone who would help tenants and people experiencing homelessness file paperwork, help with applications, and help look for funding to go to hearings.
7. Culturally appropriate applications: We need people who can speak our language accepting housing applications and assisting through the process.
8. Culturally appropriate policies and procedures that are client-friendly
9. Readable documents: Documents provided by NWT Housing, landlords, and housing providers are often inaccessible. These documents need to be translated before signing.
10 Temporary shelters: There is a lack of temporary shelters throughout NWT and Nunavut. Funding must be made available to build and resource shelters.
11. Safe Elders homes
12. More of our own people working in housing
13. Indigenous-led housing: We need housing options funded by government that are Indigenous-led.
14. No evictions until alternative housing is found for individuals: This is especially important when weather conditions mean the consequence of homelessness may be death.
15. Homeownership programs: Programs must be accessible to ensure people have a way to build to homeownership.
16. Stable homes for people with disabilities
17. Better partnerships between government housing and income support programs.

“Enough talking,” the report concludes. “It is time to see some action on what our government has been promising us for years.  Leaders and individuals are exhausted from the broken promises.”