This is the first federal election in which housing for urban indigenous peoples has received a different set of promises on multi-party platforms, but advocates for indigenous housing remain concerned that the commitments do not meet what is needed to address the crisis significantly.
Nearly 80 percent of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people in Canada live off reservations and, according to Justin Marchand, represent more than 90 percent or more of the homeless population in a handful of cities. like Timmins and Ontario. Sioux lookout.
“So you can see there, in terms of context, the level of engagement that we’re going to need if indigenous issues, if housing is important,” said Marchand, CEO of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services and president of the Canadian Housing Association. and Renovation. (CHRA) Indigenous caucus.
“We are ready to run. The government, or whoever forms the next government, could be ready to start with small steps, could be ready to walk. “
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Four of the top five parties have a portion of their nine recommendations on their platforms, including working with indigenous peoples to develop a housing strategy.
Liberals and Greens call it a “Northern Urban, Rural and Indigenous Housing Strategy,” and Liberals back it with an initial investment of $ 300 million. Conservatives are promoting a “For the Indians, by the Indigenous” strategy, while the NDP offers a fully funded “National Indigenous Housing Strategy” within its first 100 days in office.
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“For indigenous, for indigenous, what does that mean?” asked Dr. Gabrielle Lindstrom, an educational development consultant on indigenous forms of knowledge at the University of Calgary.
“Right now, the consultation as defined by the government is not a consultation as indigenous peoples see it.”
Lindstrom, who has conducted academic research on indigenous housing, homelessness and child welfare, said the written promises do not indicate that indigenous peoples will be able to lead the creation of these strategies, rather than act as partners or take control once they have finished. and running.
They fail to demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the issue, he added, raising questions about how racism would be dismantled in the housing sector under the leadership of each party.
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“For indigenous peoples, it is not just about having more roofs over our heads, it is about being able to feel that we are in a space where we have the freedom to be indigenous, where we can practice our culture, where we can have access to the natural environment. “, said.
For indigenous peoples, he said, that means having “even just access to enough space that is tailored to how we understand family, which is different from the Western core understanding of family.”
Lindstrom also noted that some of the platforms do not place their housing promises in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and none offer specific support for indigenous peoples migrating to urban areas from the Bookings.
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The HUMA committee report also calls on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CHMC) to support indigenous housing strategies and a new Center for Urban, Rural and Northern Housing, which would be co-developed by indigenous peoples, governments, communities and organizations. .
The Liberal Party is committed to jointly developing a National Center for Indigenous Housing with indigenous peoples who oversee housing programs “once they are fully implemented”, but the Green platform is the only one that includes the CMHC.
Green Party leader Annamie Paul vows to change legislation that prevents indigenous organizations from accessing
CMHC funding to invest in self-determined housing needs. It also undertakes to establish a housing support program “For indigenous people, for indigenous people.”
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Both Liberals and Greens also promised to appoint a new federal housing advocate, something that has long been called for, said Nisga’a housing advocate Luugigyoo Patrick Stewart, who is also the Institute’s first indigenous president. of Architecture of British Columbia.
However, he is disappointed that none of his platforms include the billions of dollars and the precise timeframes that it would take to “bridge the gap.”
“If they say that they are going to propose so many units per year for the next 10 years and we already know that that is not going to be enough, and they form the government, then what?” I ask.
“So I don’t think anyone is really winning.“
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If reelected, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has committed $ 2 billion to Indian housing with more than half of the funds available by next summer. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Paul have not included a dollar figure in their commitments to indigenous housing.
Rather, O’Toole is committed to providing the territories with their “fair share” in federal housing funding and working with “indigenous groups, including the Inuit” to ensure that homes are built.
Singh has promised “safe and affordable housing” in indigenous communities on and off the reserves, while “immediately” addressing health risks in indigenous households.
Paul is committed to investing in indigenous housing that includes services such as counseling, medication assistance, and life skills training, along with funding for indigenous housing providers. Its platform also specifies that indigenous housing would be built in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and all indigenous housing programs would be open to those without a government-issued status.
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“We really did a great job for the federal government,” Marchand said. “What we are looking for is a partner.”
Over the years, Marchand said that indigenous advocates, housing providers and organizations, including the CHRA indigenous group, have invested countless time, energy, and resources to provide elected officials with a way forward in matters. of housing. These platforms are a step in the “right direction,” he explained, but the plans lack sufficient detail.
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Stewart agreed that some progress has been made in supporting the housing needs of urban, rural, and reservation indigenous peoples in the past six years, but federal elections disrupt that process.
Indigenous housing should be a non-partisan issue, he added, that includes consistent and reliable funding no matter who is in power, and that is something the parties can work on together.
“That is really difficult for families,” he told Global News. “It is difficult for the communities because they never know in four years how much they are going to have or how they plan that.”
Stewart also called on all parties to ensure that fire safety reviews of construction and drawing plans in indigenous communities are reestablished as a free and accessible service so that communities do not have to spend resources on hiring external consultants.
To learn more about how each of the federal parties’ plans address housing, affordability, reconciliation, and mental health, visit the Global News Promise Tracker.
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