June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples day, marking a time to celebrate the cultural diversity of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across Canada. Habitat HMD recognizes the importance of this day – in coming together across the country for a day of learning and rejoicing in celebration of Indigenous culture. We also wanted to use this day as an opportunity to shed light on the Indigenous housing crisis and share what Habitat’s doing about it.
First celebrated in 1996 (then referred to as “Aboriginal day”), Indigenous day is an opportunity for learning and celebration.
Indigenous peoples have an extremely far-reaching history, which is essentially the very history of our country, seeing as they were the first people here. The relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples quickly became one of exploitation, control and abuse. From historic treaties where the Crown sought to strip Indigenous peoples of their claim to land without their informed consent, to the more recent atrocious system of residential schools, which existed up until 1996.
This day should be used as a way to recognize and reflect on Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples, but it also offers the chance for you to experience Indigenous culture beyond headlines and textbooks.
There are a number of events taking place across Canada on June 21 to give you the opportunity to engage directly with Indigenous celebrations. Check out this interactive map to see which events are happening closest to you.
Indigenous housing crisis
First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country continue to face horrendous housing conditions, both on and off reserve. These issues include dilapidated housing and overcrowding.
Dilapidated housing is any house that doesn’t provide safe and adequate shelter. These “homes” actually endanger the health, safety and well-being of its occupants.
1 in 5 Indigenous people live in a dwelling that’s in need of major repairs, according to Stats Can. This encompasses homes with severe mould infestation, defective plumbing or electrical wiring or ones requiring structural repairs to the walls, floors, or ceilings.
1 in 4 First Nations people live in overcrowded housing.
This housing crisis is reaching a critical state, with many reserves declaring states of emergency over their housing conditions. According to a report released in 2012, almost half of the homes on Canadian reserves have mould infestations with the potential to cause serious respiratory illnesses.
This past March, the housing crisis escalated following the death of 48-year-old Nashie Oombash, from Cat Lake First Nation. She died from respiratory issues, stemming from extensive mould within her home.
So what’s Habitat doing about this?
Indigenous Housing Partnership
Suffice to say, we at Habitat HM are outraged by these figures (likely as you are while reading this) and we know that anger often leads to action. To address these challenges specifically facing Indigenous families, Habitat launched the Indigenous Housing Partnership in 2007.
Ultimately, our aim through this partnership is to improve the current state of Indigenous housing. We strive to accomplish this by expanding affordable housing options for families both on and off reserve as well as providing skills and training within Indigenous communities.
This includes education on how to maintain, repair or construct homes within their community. We partner with schools, educational institutions and facilities for youth. In 2018, more than 200 Indigenous youth and women were engaged through this initiative.
Our key to success for an initiative of this scale is through partnerships and collaboration.
The Indigenous Housing Partnership launched with the support of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
In 2011, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) signed an agreement with Habitat, in the interest of increasing the First Nations’ involvement in our build projects. We understand that Indigenous peoples have a deep spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to their land and that building homes within Indigenous communities must be undertaken with the support of the community.
Duck Lake is a small town of 600 people, most of whom are Indigenous. However, the town only had 150 family homes. It’s easy to see this math doesn’t check out, and Habitat wanted to get involved to help combat overcrowded housing.
Since 2013, we’ve enabled six Duck Lake families to move into Habitat homes, where overcrowding or mould infestation are now issues in their rear-view mirror.
Pikangikum is an Ojibwe community in northern Ontario. Only every 1 in 5 homes had a tap for running water. Every other household had to fetch water, bucket by bucket, from watering points in the community to bring back to their home. The water then had to be boiled in order for it to be safe for consumption.
Habitat worked with the community to install drinking water in 10 homes. While completing the project, we taught a few members in the community necessary trades skills, including carpentry, plumbing and electrical. Now, the project to continue expanding drinking water within Pikangikum can be sustainable as the community takes on indoor plumbing projects of its own.
To see our 2016 Indigenous Housing Impact Report, click here.
If your community or organization would like to join forces with our Indigenous Housing Partnership, please contact Jayshree Thakar at [email protected].
To learn more about the work Habitat HM is doing inside our community, visit our website.
By: Olivia Kabelin
Updated: July 2, 2021