ITK says only ‘modest investment’ in federal budget to eradicate tuberculosis


Pangnirtung is located on Baffin Island in Nunavut with a population of about 1,500. Photo: APTN.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) says the federal government is only giving “roughly a quarter” of the money that was requested to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) in Inuit Nunangat in this year’s federal budget.

The Liberals released Budget 2023 on Tuesday pledging to spend $16.2 million over three years for “interventions to reduce rates of tuberculosis in Inuit communities.”

Natan Obed, president of the ITK, a national lobby group representing Inuit, panned the move.

“This modest investment in Inuit health priorities does not fulfill our joint commitment with the Government of Canada to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat by 2030,” Obed said in a statement Wednesday.

“But we remain optimistic that future federal budget cycles will unlock the funding needed to honour this commitment.”

Inuit Nunangat is made up of four regions – Inuvialuit (Yukon and N.W.T.), Nunavik in northern Quebec, Nunatsiavut in Labrador and the territory of Nunavut. Approximately 48,000 Inuit live across the four regions and have some of the highest rates of TB in the world.

Statistics provided by the Department of Health in Nunavut show that between 2014 and 2021, on average, there were 63 active cases of TB each year, which works out to 167 people per 100,000. The data shows that 2017 had a spike in cases with 101.

The active rate of TB in Canada outside Inuit Nunangat in 2020 was 5.0 per 100,000 according to Heath Canada.

TB is an infectious disease spread through the air by coughing, sneezing or talking. It usually affects the lungs but can also infect the brain and other parts of the body. Overcrowding in houses in Inuit Nunangat makes people susceptible to infection because of the close quarters.

Symptoms include a cough that lasts longer than three weeks, feeling tired, loss of appetite, fever or night sweats.

TB is treatable with medication.

On March 23, Nunavut’s chief public health officer declared an outbreak in Pond Inlet where there were five active cases and another 22 cases of latent TB.

In 2021, Pangnirtung went through a similar outbreak.

According to budget submissions provided by ITK, the national lobby organization asked for $131.6 million over seven years to help eradicate TB.

ITK also asked for $75.1 billion for infrastructure over 35 years, $100 million over four years for a food security strategy, and $1.6 billion over 15 years for a school food program.

APTN News reached out to ITK for comment on other items in the budget but didn’t hear back before the story was published.

According to Budget 2023, the federal government has spent $7.8 billion on Inuit programs since 2015, including $5.1 billion “to reduce tuberculosis, provide non-insured health benefits, and support distinctions-based mental health care.”

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