The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in Saskatchewan says it will be closely watching the Federal budget and hoping there is money available for housing.
A recent report by the National Housing Council called for a $6.3 billion investment in housing for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities over the next two years to deal with immediate housing needs.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said that number is way too low. Cameron said the treaty right to shelter needs to be honoured and is calling for a historic investment of billions of dollars.
“When we put out the number $15 billion, that’s just a start. See, we’re playing a game of catchup here,” he said. “And all of our housing experts, our leadership who’ve been involved with housing for several decades know this all too well.”
It appeared Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu knows this too, saying on APTN’s Face to Face on Tuesday night that the need is dire.
“Both new housing to accommodate growing populations and crowded situations but also repairs and renovations for existing units. If it’s not the first thing that I’m hearing from chiefs and councils, it’s for sure the second thing,” she said.
“Of course, with housing being a critical social determinant of health, community leaders are very well aware of the links between housing, the ability to protect residents from things like spreading Covid 19 or even tuberculosis and other illnesses but, not only that the connection between good housing, decent housing and mental health and educational outcomes.”
Even so, Cameron said year after year, the budget allocation for First Nation’s housing falls short, and it’s past time for this to be rectified.
“Prime Minister Trudeau, we expect, and strongly encourage that you and your colleagues allocate those funds as soon as possible,” Cameron said. “We don’t want to wait six months to a year to build more houses on reserve.
“We need it and we need it now.”
The FSIN represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, and it’s key mandate is to promote and protect the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
Federal MPs pushing for more housing money
While non-Indigenous Canadians are struggling to buy homes due to skyrocketing prices, many First Nation, Inuit Métis people are simply looking for a decent place to live.
It’s an issue northern Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton knows all too well.
Her riding contains a number of First Nations where people are forced to live in substandard conditions in overcrowded homes that are poorly insulated, prone to mold, and often completely dilapidated.
“Indigenous housing needs to be a priority,” she says. “It is something we were very clear on in terms of this agreement. And that needs to start now. There’s no question the situation is only getting worse in these communities I represent.
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic hit Indigenous communities harder because of the housing circumstances.”
Investments in Indigenous housing are part of the agreement signed by the NDP and Liberals last month.
The agreement says the government will make significant additional investments in Indigenous housing in 2022 and it will be up to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to determine how this money is spent and programs designed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that housing will be a major part of the budget.
“We’ve heard from Canadians from across the country and others who are facing challenges with the rising cost of living, crushing pressures of the housing market and that’s why we’re focused on supporting them,” he said
“In tomorrow’s budget, you will see significant investments in housing.”
These investments and possibly other ones in Indigenous communities will be revealed when Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tables the 2022 budget on Thursday afternoon.