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‘Woefully inaccurate’ Inuit population data overwhelming local agencies

Inaccurate census data about the size of Ottawa’s Inuit community is leading to inadequate funding for the health and social services designed to help it, the agencies that provide those services say.

According to the latest numbers available from Statistics Canada, Ottawa has the largest Inuit population outside of the North, enumerated at 1,280 in 2016.

But agencies that provide services to the community estimate the Inuit population in the capital is at least 3,700, and as large as 6,000.

“My first thought was, that’s still under-sampled,” said Connie Siedule, executive director of the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team, the only medical clinic dedicated specifically to Inuit clients. Siedule said the clinic currently has 6,000 patients registered.

Those clients tend to be people who reside here, because patients who fly to Ottawa for critical care tend to use the region’s hospitals, not Akausivik.

“For years, we’ve seen more community members show up at the Christmas party than [are reflected in] the census,” Siedule said.

LHIN pegs population at 3.7K

The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the agency responsible for health care services in the region, pegs the region’s Inuit population at 3,700 in its 2015 Indigenous services directory, an estimate based on information from Inuit community organizations.

However “the population estimates fluctuate as many Inuit move to and from northern communities on a
regular basis,” the Champlain LHIN notes.

“The census data is woefully inaccurate,” said Jason Leblanc of Tungasuvvingat Inuit, a resource centre that offers a variety of services including housing support, job counselling, family resources, and addiction and mental health services.

According to its latest annual report, some 4,000 people accessed services through Tungasuvvingat Inuit in 2016.

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