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Housing on First Nation Reserves: Challenges and Successes

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About the Study

A new house

Why study on-reserve housing?

Housing is essential to the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. A house is more than a building – it is a home. And yet, too many First Nations people across the country live in housing which is woefully inadequate, and still others face barriers which prevent them from having the full range of housing choices available off-reserve. The importance of this situation compelled the Committee to look at the issues surrounding housing in depth at the outset of its infrastructure study.

What did the committee learn? 

The Committee found incredible challenges and inspiring success stories. The Committee recognizes the magnitude of the challenge relating to housing on reserves. Yet these challenges are not uniform across the country. There are two dramatically different stories to be told. In the most remote communities the Committee visited and heard from, the housing situation is critical and is intricately linked to the poverty of the First Nation and the people who live there. This is radically different from the housing situation in First Nation communities which have benefited from economic development and taken advantage of innovative building and funding opportunities. Finding a way forward will mean being attentive to both realities.

A small house and trailer in need of repairs

Why an interim report? 

As it visited First Nation communities, the Committee made a commitment to tell it as it is. As part of this commitment, the Committee will ensure that communities struggling with serious housing shortfalls and deteriorating housing stocks see their realities and challenges reflected in this interim report. The Committee will also ensure that communities benefiting from economic development that are in a position to build better quality housing and infrastructure see their realities and challenges reflected as well. This interim report captures these two ends of the housing spectrum, and all that falls between them.

The Committee wants to do justice to the testimony it has heard in an accurate and balanced way, and to develop recommendations which are well thought-out and result in significant change. It had been our intention to propose recommendations in this interim report, however the Committee is continuing to hear important testimony on housing as it continues its infrastructure study. To make recommendations at this time would be premature.

Aerial view of Ahousaht First Nation

Study by the numbers

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What’s next? 

The Committee is currently in the second phase of its study, focusing on community infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water, and sewer systems. The Committee is exploring innovative financing options to meet housing and infrastructure needs. At the conclusion of phase two, the Committee will table a report with recommendations.

Public hearings in Thunder Bay, ON

Senators who participated in this study

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Chair
Dennis Patterson
C - (Nunavut)

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Deputy Chair
Lillian Eva Dyck
Lib. - (Saskatchewan)

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Lynn Beyak
C - (Ontario)

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Tobias C. Jr. Enverga
C - (Ontario)

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Sandra Lovelace Nicholas
Lib. - (New Brunswick)

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Wilfred P. Moore
Lib. - (Stanhope St. / South Shore - Nova Scotia)

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Thanh Hai Ngo
C - (Ontario)

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Nancy Greene Raine
C - (Thompson-Okanagan-Kootenay - British Columbia)

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Nick G. Sibbeston
Lib. - (Northwest Territories)

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Scott Tannas
C - (Alberta)

Ex-officio members of the committee:
The Honourable Senators Claude Carignan, P.C. (or Yonah Martin) and James S. Cowan(or Joan Fraser)

Other Senators who have participated from time to time in the study:
The Honourable Senators Salma Ataullahjan, Douglas Black, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Andrée Champagne, P.C., Jane Cordy, Don Meredith, Jim Munson, Bob Runciman, John D. Wallace and Charlie Watt.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362

Email: appa@sen.parl.gc.ca

Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A4