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Higher Cost of Living in Remote Communities

Quality of life in remote communities is unsurprisingly lower than in urban parts of the country. Anything from rent to necessities like food and water is much more expensive than in the city. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made it any better, on the contrary.

In a story by Maclean’s, individuals living in remote communities on average spend half of their income on food. A similar message is reiterated in a report done by Food Secure Canada (FSC),which estimates,on average, a family of four spends around $1,909/month on food compared to a family in Toronto, which spends $847. The most affected are First Nations communities, as stated by the Human Rights Watch in an article they released in May of this year. If a community can only be reached by air or during certain times of the year, they must order their supplies a year in advance and often buy up on more affordable yet less healthy food items. 

People in these communities are unable to buy necessary food items to live a healthy life, and as a result, the health of the overall community goes down. This gives rise to avoidable and preventable health diseases like type 2 diabetes affecting about one in five First Nations people. Health inequity and lack of appropriate health equipment in remote communities make things much worse for those unfortunate enough to get sick from a bad diet.

The FSC provides some solutions to mitigate the food problem in remote communities, including providing the necessary infrastructure for food production, creating a food and land protection system that prioritizes food production and making remote communities work together in moving around supplies from one community to another.

Housing has also been a major problem in remote communities. Often there are not enough houses being constructed to support the growing population of these communities. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) says that 44 per cent of existing houses need major repairs, with another 15 per cent beyond repairable. Five thousand four hundred eighty-six

 houses are without sewage services. Overcrowding in homes is also common, being normal for 23.4 per cent of First Nations adults. In 2018 the government provided $600 million in funding to First Nations reserves which were fully paid out this year. Another $117 million is being sent this year to support local businesses affected by COVID-19.

Housing problems further lowers the quality of life in these remote communities. Inadequate heating systems, electricity insecurity and the high cost of building a house, costing around $155,000 to build one, all aggravate the problem further.  

The pandemic has only worsened with food prices all over Canada going up and people struggling to pay their bills. Costs have also gone up in remote communities, as transportation and delivery of supplies, as well as housing costs, rose significantly in the past year and a half. 

It will take a lot of work to help people living in remote communities get back on their feet and return to normalcy. More will take to improve their quality of life.

– Michael Spivak, U Multicultural

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