Critics accuse Liberals of failing to address Indigenous housing crisis

Canada’s rapidly rising real estate prices have dominated discussion in Parliament this fall but some say the Indigenous housing crisis is being left out of the conversation.

Day after day in Question Period, the Conservative opposition has hammered the Liberal government over not doing enough to help Canadians who find themselves priced out of a red-hot housing market.

In the throne speech, the government did announce plans to bring in “first-time buyer” and “rent to own” programs.

However, the NDP says these programs will not address the grim reality that confronts many Indigenous people.

“This government’s throne speech made no mention of Indigenous housing which is frankly unacceptable.” northern Manitoba MP Niki Ashton says.

“So, we are here saying today that this federal government has an obligation coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Has an obligation given the shocking level of housing and insecurity that Indigenous communities face? And has an obligation overall to Indigenous communities to act when it comes to housing.”

Ashton says a number of communities in her constituency are living in substandard housing conditions including the Garden Hill First Nation.

An NDP news release says Indigenous Services Canada estimates there is an immediate on-reserve need for 21,000 homes while another 50,000 homes require major repairs.

Cliff Grant is the director of strategic relations for the Aboriginal Housing Management Association and is based in Vancouver.

He agrees the Liberals are missing the mark when it comes to Indigenous housing.

“Since the Liberal government announced the national housing strategy in 2017, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association has pointed out they neglected the vast majority of Indigenous people,” Grant says.

“Those who are forced out of their communities or choose to live off-reserve for various reasons. The Canadian national housing strategy does not cover over 70 per cent of Indigenous people.”

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu says housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in need is a top priority for the government but admits more needs to be done.

“We have been working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to co-develop and implement community-led housing strategies,” she says.

“We’ve also been spending billions of dollars to do that. But what I would say is much more is needed and that’s going to be a focus of my work as minister of Indigenous services.”

Both the NDP and Grant say what is needed is a “for Indigenous, by Indigenous” housing strategy.

They argue this would provide the necessary funding and allow communities to design housing programming that best meet their needs.

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