An MLA representing the N.W.T.’s northernmost riding is encouraging the territorial government to prioritize infrastructure projects that allow elders in remote communities to age in place.
Jackie Jacobson is the MLA for Nunakput which includes Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok. Of those communities, only Tuktoyaktuk is accessible by road.
Jacobson raised the issue of elder care on Friday in the Legislative Assembly, as MLAs discussed the capital budget.
According to the budget, around $16 million will go toward planning various projects that include long term care and supported living facilities.
The budget details plans for a potential 20-bed long term care facility in Inuvik.
Jacobson said he supports this project, but added more needs to be done for those who live in fly-in communities and who can’t afford to visit their aging relatives.
“The only time that people get to see their parents … Is when they come in for medical, because the price of tickets is so high,” he said.
“You could go from Yellowknife to Disneyland and back for a one-way ticket from Inuvik to Ulukhaktok.”
According to Google flights, a roundtrip flight from Ulukhaktok to Inuvik costs over $3,600, a one-way ticket is $1,800 and involves 25 hours of commuting.
Jacobson said part of Inuvialuit culture is to take care of elders, and not having the resources to do so in a home community is difficult. He said many elders will choose on their own to leave in order to avoid being a burden on their family.
“It’s harsh for me to say this, but when the elders go out, they say they go out and come back in a box. And that’s really tough, and in the last 12 years, being here, I’ve seen a lot of it,” he said.
Jacobson said a long term care facility potentially being built in Inuvik would be good for people in his riding, including those in Tuktoyaktuk who could drive there easily. But there is no money in the capital budget for supported living facilities in the communities Jacobson represents and he said he hopes that will change.
“I’m happy for Inuvik because there’s a waiting list to get in there, but half that waiting list is from my riding,” he said.
A stated priority of the 19th Assembly was to allow more elders to age in their home communities.
The government did make some progress on this by opening a seniors’ centre in Fort Good Hope, although the project was significantly delayed in welcoming residents and is now the subject of a lawsuit.