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Ottawa “failing” Indigenous communities

Canada’s Auditor General slams Feds’ failures on Indigenous housing

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The Canadian federal government is failing to meet its housing commitments to Indigenous people, says Auditor General (AG) Karen Hogan. In a recent report that was tabled at the House of Commons on March 19, Hogan criticized the federal government for failing to provide adequate housing in First Nations communities across the country.

"After four audit reports, I can honestly say that I am completely discouraged that so little has changed and that so many First Nations individuals and families continue to live in substandard homes," Hogan said in Ottawa.

It is the fourth time in 20 years that the auditor general has reported on Ottawa’s failures to address housing issues in First Nations communities.

Chronic underfunding and an overall lack of desire have led to little progress since the last report in 2015. Despite promises from Ottawa, “there were no meaningful improvements” for Indigenous housing conditions, the report says. The percentage of housing and home repairs needed from 2015 to 2022 is essentially the same.

The report highlights that inadequate housing contributes to mental health issues, substance abuse, and cultural loss. If there is no housing, people are forced to move away. Although housing is part of Ottawa’s recommendations for Truth and Reconciliation, little progress has been made. Hogan says that Ottawa’s “persistent pattern of failure” contradicts the “spirit of true reconciliation.”

Overall issues with mismanagement, like incorrect allocation of funds and not following recommended guidelines, are also factors in the "failure,” according to the report. Indigenous Services Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) are the primary governmental agencies involved.

Inside Canada's House of Commons

"We found that the department and the corporation have not prioritized communities with the greatest needs," Hogan said. First Nations communities with the poorest housing conditions received the least amount of funding, and areas with the “highest proportion of homes that need to be replaced or repaired” were not being targeted, the report reads.

With over $3 billion spent, there is little to show. Lack of funding, mismanagement, and Ottawa’s “passive” approach have been "ineffective,” Hogan said. Ottawa’s failures have led to housing costs now estimated to have tripled, and there are still no meaningful long-term solutions. Overall, as the AG reports, Ottawa has repeatedly failed at addressing housing issues in First Nation communities. 

It should be remembered that Federal Court Judge Sébastien Grammond stated in a 2018 decision that the current situation of First Nations in Canada could be serious enough to qualify for refugee status in another country.

Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, president of the Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l'immigration, said at the time that "an indigenous person could go to France and ask for political asylum, saying that Canada doesn't protect him. Just because all Canadian aboriginals aren't being killed on every street corner doesn't mean they don't need protection."

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