A Nunavut charity says Inuit families are waiting longer for aid under their equivalent to Jordan’s Principle.
The Inuit Child First Initiative (ICFI) is a federal program similar to Jordan’s Principle, which supplies products, services and supports to First Nations families.
But Inuit families are finding their applications for everything from food to beds to education supports stalling at the federal level, according to the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, which helps process ICFI applications.
“What we’re seeing is our office is still getting the same amount of requests coming in, but it’s taking longer and longer for the request to be approved or denied,” said Taya Tootoo, executive director-in-training at the foundation.
“I know the feds at the ICFI level that we work with have advocated for more staff and have been given more staff to help work with this backlog, but they also know the amount of staff that they do have is still not enough.”
Child First applications are handled by the foundation’s Qupanuaq office in Iqaluit, where it says fewer than 10 employees processed more than 900 applications in the last fiscal year.
“We have a large amount of food insecurity applications,” added Tootoo.
“People are requesting funds for food because they can’t afford food.”
Sindu Govindapillai, director of the Qupanuaq office, says Inuit are relying on ICFI because other systems around them are failing.
“When a family has no food to eat at home. When they’re facing imminent homelessness – the systems around them are failing – often times our office will get a call to facilitate,” she said.
“As much as there is disappointment, I think there is also a broad recognition in the community that the service we’re providing through Qupanuaq is a social safety net.”
Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services Canada, says her department is working to improve wait times amid higher demand in ICFI and Jordan’s Principle requests.
“I’ve asked the department to look at two things,” Hajdu told APTN News. “One, for sure more people and two, automating some of the work.
“When you think about Jordan’s Principle or Child First Initiative as some form of insurance, what I’d like to see is some of the more, I would guess, routine requests be automated.”