Bouctouche First Nation family posts video of poor living conditions

A woman in Bouctouche First Nation in New Brunswick posted a Youtube video alleging her chief is ignoring the community’s housing shortage.

“I might as well just go live in the woods or live in a ditch,” says Emily Sanipass.

In the 30-minute video, the Sanipass family share their frustrations of poor living conditions while they wait for a house.

Each family member talks about living in an unfinished basement with no heat, a cramped apartment, sleeping in the bathroom, and a homemade hut with no running water.

Emily’s sister Ashley Sanipass, a mother of two, posted the video on social media.

“I don’t hate our chief, I don’t wish bad things upon her. I want her to do the right thing,” says Ashley.

“I want her to help her people, I want her to hear us; this is not an attack this is a plea.”

But Chief Ann Mary Steele says she was hurt by the video.

“I feel like they are targetting me, not the chief, they are targetting Ann Mary and it hurts my heart and I don’t need that negativity in my life,” she says. “There’s too much negativity here as it is.”

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APTN News coverage of housing in Indigenous communities 

Just over 100 people live in Bouctouche, which is about a 40-minute drive north of Moncton. Five people are on the waiting list for homes.

Coun. Brenton Leblanc is in charge of housing.

He says the solution isn’t that easy.

The $50,000 a year the band receives in funding for housing is not nearly enough for the community.

“We need a lot more houses and our land, we have no land left even if we do get qualified for houses where are we going to put them,” he says. “All of our land has been squatted on, like it’s ridiculous.”

Garry Sanipass, Emily and Ashley’s father, was chief of Bouctouche First Nation 15 years ago.

Today he lives in a hut.

He says the lack of housing has become generational – and that his family has been living in poor conditions for the last five years.

“I’ve struggled to make sure they didn’t have to suffer like this, but it seems like the more I tried to prevent this it’s the same thing over and over again, they are suffering,” he says.

Ashley waited two years for a home. When the old daycare building became vacant last summer, she moved in.

But there’s no bathtub, the kitchen isn’t wired for a stove and a firewall needs to be built.

Ashley says she can’t leave for renovations.

“I might as well just go live in the woods or live in a ditch and I needed to shut up and be quiet about things because I didn’t matter,” she say.

“I was told that if I leave this place, I lose it permanently and it will go to somebody else. And I’ve tried a long time to live off reserve and I just can’t do it.”

Steele says Ashley will not lose her home – and the video is not going to change the housing shortage.

“They can shame me, they can bully me, they can be mean to me, can put whatever they want, it’s still doesn’t change the fact we are working on it,” Steele says.

“We were waiting for our funding to come in.”

Video Journalist / Halifax

Angel Moore is a proud Cree from the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. Angel grew up in Winnipeg and has a Journalism degree from the University of King’s College. She also has a degree from Dalhousie University in International Development Studies and Environmental Sustainability. Angel joined APTN News in June 2018 as the correspondent in the Halifax bureau and covers Atlantic Canada.