Carter, Tom, Christa Jacobucci and Tom Janzen (2003) Inuit housing needs: A Coral Harbour, Nunavut case study, Prairie Perspectives 6: 116-134

Keywords: children and youthCoral Harbourcrowdinghousing shortagespovertyresettlement

The paper explores the housing and economic concerns of Inuit residents in Coral Harbor, Nunavut by means of literature reviews, statistical analysis and interviews with residents in 2002. Coral Harbour is a small, hamlet located on Southampton Island, in northwestern Hudson Bay. The federal government built a school in the 1950’s and a nursing station in the 1960’s while pressuring Inuit to settle close to the public services (p. 118).

Demographic information from 2001 shows that the 712 residents primarily live in shared households, with the average number of persons per household at 4.1 compared with Canada as a whole at 2.6 (p. 120). The authors suggest that this is, in part, due to a housing shortage, but also because interviewees desire to live with extended family (p. 122). Further, low employment rates often mean that residents lack the ability to pay for their own housing needs and maintenance (p. 124). For instance, the high cost of “fuel, electricity, sewer and water and garbage pick up” (p. 126) services is compounded by low-wages or reliance on social assistance, resulting in widespread poverty (p. 126).

The authors discuss the monetary and physical challenges of construction on bedrock and permafrost in northern communities. For example, water delivery and sewage disposal require the use of trucks to replenish and drain the holding tanks (p. 129).

Implications of crowding include family dynamics, health and education. Young families and single individuals were noted as being most in need of new 1 and 2 bedroom dwellings, as they are often required to cohabit with extended family (p. 132). Interviews with healthcare professionals suggested that “prevalence of communicable diseases was enhanced because of the crowding circumstances” (p. 131). As well, school officials asserted that children did not have an ideal space for completing their school work at home (p. 131).

A summary of the fieldwork interviews reveal that informants were not unhappy with the physical condition of the existing homes, but that energy efficiency and new units are the primary concerns (p. 131). The authors propose that economic development in the town is needed to aid the housing situation, as those with stable employment will not be as financially dependent on government support for the housing needs (p. 133).