Advocates say budget investment in Indigenous housing, MMIWG misses mark

Aboriginal housing CEO says feds still haven’t spent last year’s budget promises.

The head of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services says the federal government has to stop promising money but not delivering it.

According to CEO Justin Marchand, Ottawa has failed to spend the money that it promised in the 2022 budget.

“Not one dollar from last year’s budget, the $300 million that’s been announced, not one dollar has been implemented,” Marchand said. “Not one Indigenous person living in an urban, rural or northern area has benefitted from last year’s federal budget announcement.”

Regardless of when this housing investment actually happens, most stakeholders agree, the $4 billion in new Indigenous housing funding announced in this year’s budget it is not even close to being enough.

“What’s announced is nowhere near meeting the need and so we’ll have to spend some time thinking through how do we actually fill that gap,” National Association of Friendship Centres CEO Jocelyn Formsma said. “The National Housing Council has made their recommendations. There are numbers out there rooted in reality.”

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Also in Tuesday’s budget, an investment of $123 million over five years was announced for initiatives related to a national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

This includes money for an oversight mechanism to monitor progress, the movement toward hiring an Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson and plans to launch a “red dress alert” to notify the public when an Indigenous woman or Two-Spirit person goes missing.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada President Gerri Sharpe says even though it has taken the government too long to act on the calls to justice in the final report of the MMIWG inquiry, the investment is a step in the right direction.

“Tragically, our women’s families continue to pay the cost for this inaction,” she said. “In yesterday’s (Tuesday) budget, there was a focus on increased monitoring and reporting. So, Pauktuutit is hopeful these accountability measures will increase progress.”

But the Native Women’s Association of Canada wasn’t quite so optimistic.

“With words but no actions, this government continues to show Canadians Indigenous women simply are not a priority,” NWAC CEO Lynn Groulx said in a press release.

In another press release, the Métis National Council said it is disappointed the $811 million for Indigenous health initiatives will be administered through the First Nations Non-Insured Health Benefits program meaning Métis citizens are excluded.

“The Métis National Council put forward a strong budget proposal to support Métis citizens on issues of health, economic development, education, and languages,” MNC President Cassidy Caron said. “This budget fails to invest in these areas.”

Lastly, Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami said in a released statement that the $16.2 million over three years to reduce tuberculosis rates in Inuit communities is only a quarter of what the organization had been asking for.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on March 30. 

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