Canada’s continued ‘failure’ to provide adequate housing led to lawsuit says chief

First Nation in Manitoba proposes class action against Ottawa for housing conditions.

The chief of a remote First Nation in northern Manitoba is proposing a national class action lawsuit against the federal government for failing to address the housing crisis in Indigenous communities.

Chief Elvin Flett of St. Theresa Point First Nation is seeking $5 billion in compensation, as well as an order that the federal government comply with its obligation to provide adequate housing on First Nations.

“We should not have to be here today but Canada’s continued failure to address our housing crisis has left us with no choice,” said Flett at a news conference in Winnipeg on Monday.

The community said there are nearly 470 families that need homes, but Ottawa provided funding to build 20 two-bedroom units last year.

“It is normal for our two-bedroom houses to be occupied by more than 12 people,” Flett said. “And in one instance, we actually have one four-bedroom home which is occupied by 32 people.”

According to Flett, about 25 per cent of the homes in St. Theresa Point are condemned due to severe decay and rotting while others require major repairs.

He said First Nations across the country are living in unimaginable conditions that aren’t seen elsewhere.

Michael Rosenberg, the lawyer representing St. Theresa Point, said there are two parts to the action against the government. One addressing the past – the other – the future.

“The past is compensation for hardships-hardships of the sort you heard about today, that no one should have endured, and that means compensation for the First Nations for the loss of their communities through inadequate housing,” he said. “It also means compensation or their members who personally endured those hardships.”

He said the second part is to force Canada to follow through on a treaty promise dealing with housing.

“The future is about recognizing the rights that those promises have created, and if necessary, given the urgency of the situation, Chief Flett and St. Theresa Point will seek injunctive relief, to compel Canada to recognize the urgency of the situation and the need for immediate action,” he said.

The next step is to have the class action certified in court.

Indigenous Services Canada wrote to APTN News to say that it will continue to work with St. Theresa Point First Nation on its housing issues.

With files from the Canadian Press

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