Housing: Current Problems

Fed. Govt.

June 27, 2022

Indigenous Housing Reports

AFN Regional Chief Presses Urgent Action at Meeting with Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers of Housing

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations: AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse participated in a meeting today with Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Housing and National Indigenous Organizations (NIOs), calling for more investments and support for First Nations housing and challenging Provincial and Territorial governments to work in partnership with First Nations.

“I believe we share a belief in a universal principle – adopted internationally as a basic human right – that safe and adequate housing is not only essential for the wellbeing of First Nations, but is essential for everyone’s wellbeing,” said AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse, who is responsible for the AFN Housing portfolio on the AFN Executive Committee. “First Nations from coast to coast to coast share an over abundance of poor quality and quantity of housing, due to a deplorable legacy of colonialism. It is our shared commitment to change that reality and ensure all our people have safe and healthy homes.”

AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse provided remarks on the implementation of the federal Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, AFN National First Nations Homelessness Action Plan and First Nations jurisdiction over housing.

In addition to pressing for more investments, AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse challenged all Provincial and Territorial (PT) governments to work in partnership with First Nations on housing priorities with First Nations taking the lead.

“I lift up the Government of British Columbia for leading the way for its provincial and territorial counterparts by investing in urban and rural Indigenous housing and all housing in First Nation communities,” said AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse. “Provincial and territorial government investments will go a long way in reducing homelessness in urban areas, while raising the standard of housing to a level enjoyed by most Canadians, and we must work together with First Nations leading the way.”

The 2022 Federal Budget committed $3 billion over five years to First Nations housing compared to the minimum $60 billion needed to close the funding gap for First Nations housing.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern. 

March 20, 2019

Indigenous Housing Reports

Budget 2019 investments ignores housing crisis in Nunavut

Nationally, Budget 2019 makes major investments in housing. However, the Inuit housing crisis in Nunavut remains largely unaddressed. Housing is a social determinant of health and linked to the on-going tuberculosis epidemic, mental illness, educational outcomes and violence.

August 26, 2019

Fire Protection on Reserves

Budget 2019 invests in creation of Indigenous Fire Marshall Office

Government of Canada – Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, announced Budget 2019 funding of $9.97 million over three years, starting in 2019–2020, to support the creation of an Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO). The funding will support Indigenous partners in the next steps in establishing a new IFMO, including how the Office would be structured and governed, its mandate and any associated legislation. Arnold Lazare, President of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), is the IFMO Project Lead. An Indigenous Advisory Committee is being established to support the IFMO Project to help develop the roles and responsibilities of an IFMO. An IFMO would promote fire safety and prevention, undertake public education, and support the use of fire safety, building codes and regular building inspections in Indigenous communities. More information about the project and progress to date can found at:

June 14, 2022

Indigenous Housing Reports

Federal Housing Advocate will receive two urgent human rights claims from Women and Indigenous groups

NationTalk: On June 14, the Federal Housing Advocate will receive two urgent human rights claims from Women and Indigenous groups raising the growing housing emergency for women and gender-diverse people – a first in Canada

Today, the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network (WNHHN) and the Indigenous women-led Keepers of the Circle have submitted two Human Rights Claims to the Federal Housing Advocate, which spotlight the federal government’s failure to adequately address housing need and homelessness for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. These Claims assert that this failure has manufactured a national human rights crisis for women and gender-diverse people, and constitute violations of the right to equality and the right to housing. They request an urgent review by the Federal Housing Advocate.

Marie-Josée Houle, the Advocate, has a mandate to review systemic housing issues identified by communities across Canada and make recommendations on how to address them. Situated at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, she is an independent, nonpartisan watchdog on the human right to housing. Her role is to hold Canadian governments accountable for their obligations to address housing need and homelessness across Canada. Recommendations she offers are submitted to the Minister responsible for housing, who must respond within 120 days and table that response in the House of Commons and the Senate. These recommendations can lead to critical policy changes to meaningfully address the growing crisis.

Drawing on legal analysis, lived expertise testimony, and extensive research, these Claims outline how the failure to invest in affordable housing violates women and gender-diverse people’s right to equality and right to housing. Research indicates that the National Housing Strategy is failing those who are suffering the most in the housing crisis – Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons; single moms living on low-incomes; women with disabilities; Black and racialized women and gender-diverse people; newcomers and refugees; and many others who face intersecting forms of marginalization. The Claims are submitted in the hopes that the Federal Housing Advocate will urgently make recommend changes to improve gender equity in housing.  

“We developed this claim because we see no future for ourselves and our communities in the current housing system,” says Kaitlin Schwan, WNHHN National Director and co-author of the WNHHN’s Human Rights Claim. “We live in a housing system in which profit is prioritized over women’s right to a dignified life, to safety, and to equality. A new vision is urgently needed.”

The National Indigenous Feminist Housing Working Group (NIFHWG) situated with Keepers of the Circle submitted a claim focusing on the national housing crisis and its impact on Indigenous women and girls. The violations outlined build on the ongoing history of colonialism, genocide, and oppression that continues to fuel today’s crisis.

“Violations of the right to housing are at the core of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. Following the findings of the TRC and MMWIG Inquiry reports and the ongoing uncovering of children’s graves at residential schools—NIFHWG decided to engage in this urgent process for our government to address violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Khulud Baig, Keepers of the Circle Housing & Homelessness Research Lead.

The claim proposes a unique opportunity to the Federal Housing Advocate to co-develop a transformative human rights process with Indigenous women and gender-diverse people to articulate the right to housing on their own terms.

“These claims are a symbol of Indigenous women and girls taking their futures back—and it’s only the beginning of an urgent process for our government to utilize the National Housing Strategy Act to address the egregious violations against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s and gender-diverse people’s right to housing,” says Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat, Co-Chair, NIFHWG.

Learn more at womenshomelessness.ca/humanrightsclaims.

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February 24, 2017

Fire Protection on Reserves

Government ignores request for Indigenous Fire Marshall and building code regulations

Toronto Star – “Fire and death in First Nations”. Not including funds for an Indigenous Fire Marshall and failure to enact building code regulations for home construction on First Nations reserves. Both were recommendations from the Aboriginal Firefighters Association after the high number of fire fatalities on First Nation reserves in the last year. A Star investigation has found that at least 173 people have died in fires in First Nation communities across the country since the government stopped tracking the deaths in 2010. At least 25 of them are children.

October 30, 2018

Fire Protection on Reserves

Indigenous leaders excluded from Regional Emergency Operations Centre dealing with Fort McMurray fires

Globe and Mail – Indigenous leaders weren’t included in the Regional Emergency Operations Centre where officials from municipalities, the province and Ottawa determined what to do to address the Fort McMurray wildfires. Metis communities weren’t eligible at all.

Governments failed to consider the circumstances of Indigenous communities. Many houses damaged in the fire started off in bad shape. Fewer Indigenous homeowners were insured. About one-quarter of Indigenous people in the survey lost their homes _ a far higher percentage than in Fort McMurray as a whole. About one-third of those who lost homes had no insurance. Fort McMurray Metis spent their reserves to the point where they could not get a bank loan.

March 31, 2020


Laurentian University Research on Indigenous Homelessness

CBC – A team of researchers at Laurentian University is compiling research about homelessness among Indigenous people — with the hopes it could influence government policy decisions, and contribute to reconciliation. Last fall, the university hosted a conference, called Reclaiming Home, which focused on issues of homelessness, housing, and reconciliation.

“Just looking at the rates of homelessness among Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people, our research has shown that Indigenous people are at great risk, much greater risk of homelessness,” said Carol Kauppi, director of the Centre for Research in Social Justice Policy at Laurentian, and the person leading the research.
In 2018, Kauppi’s team conducted research in 15 communities in northeastern Ontario, compiling a database of approximately 3,500 people experiencing homelessness.

She said some of those factors include:

  • shortage of housing and overcrowding in some First Nations communities
  • migration from communities on the James Bay coast into urban centres, and
  • individuals being denied access to housing because of discrimination.

Laurentian University researchers will be publishing a book about homelessness and reconciliation in September, 2020. Kauppi said the final chapter of the book will outline policy implications of the research.

March 24, 2021

Fire Protection on Reserves

No national fire protection code that mandates fire safety standards or enforcement on reserves

“NationTalk – There is no national fire protection code that mandates fire safety standards or enforcement on reserves. All other jurisdictions in Canada including provinces, territories, and other federal jurisdictions (such as military bases, airports, and seaports) have established building and fire codes. The Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC’s) parent organization, supports the development of a national First Nations Fire Protection Act and is willing to work with First Nations leadership as a technical resource.

In the absence of legislation act or regulations, AFAC and the NIFSC are addressing identified gaps to improve fire safety in Indigenous communities by supporting them in creating fire safety standards, doing fire protection and response research, and establishing fire safety bylaws and building standards.

Indigenous Peoples across Canada are over 5 times more likely to die in a fire compared to the rest of the population. That number increases to over 10 times for First Nations people living on reserve. Inuit are over 17 times more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people. Rates among Métis were higher than non-Indigenous estimates (2.1), but these rates were not significantly different.

Fire-related injuries resulting in hospitalization are also disproportionate to Indigenous Peoples. First Nations people are over 4 times more likely, Métis are over 1.5 times more likely, and Inuit are over 5 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be hospitalized due to fire-related injuries.

What has led to this situation?

Many social determinants contribute to the higher fire-related mortality among Indigenous Peoples. These include poverty, inadequate housing conditions, housing without smoke alarms, and more.
Core capital funding provided by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), which includes funding for fire protection, is flexible. This means community leadership can use designated fire protection funds if the community has more immediate or pressing needs (e.g., a school needing repairs or social housing maintenance). Without a fire protection mandate or regulatory maintenance of fire protection standards for Indigenous communities, fire services and fire and life safety can be deprioritized or forgotten. For more information please visit the ISC website.

How the NIFSC Program will Help?

  • Offer culturally sensitive and relevant fire and life safety training and education programs that are created for and delivered by Indigenous Peoples. These services are available to First Nations populations living on reserve, leadership, and individuals working or volunteering in emergency services.
  • Launched close to 80 programs and services that provide training and ongoing support to more than 600 First Nations communities in Canada. Programs include education, support, and training in the areas of community fire safety, community governance support, community infrastructure and engineering support, fire department management, fire investigation services, and fire department operations.
  • Training, education programs and services being offered by the NIFSC Project have not previously been available to First Nations communities, whereas they have been available in most other communities in Canada
  • improve fire-related mortality and morbidity amongst Indigenous Peoples is through more accurate data collection. The creation of the National Incident Reporting System (NIRS) will, over time, provide the data regarding fire incidents in Indigenous communities that has been missing.

December 11, 2019

Urban Indigenous Housing Srategy

Statement on National Urban Indigenous Housing Strategy

In Canada 79.7% of Indigenous Peoples live in urban centres yet an Indigenous Urban Housing strategy has yet to be developed.

Aboriginal Housing Manager Association (AMHA) applauds the Federal government efforts in the National Housing Strategy to address the needs of Metis/First Nations/Inuit groups on a distinction basis, it has failed to recognize the majority and the most vulnerable; the urban Indigenous peoples. As per the Special Rapporteur’s report “states should recognize the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and that indigenous peoples must be able to influence decisions that affect them in housing and related areas. Indigenous peoples must be meaningfully consulted with a view to obtaining their free, prior and informed consent to all decisions made regarding housing policy, laws and programmes that may affect them.”

“As the newly formed federal government opens parliament, on International Human Rights Day – we share this statement in the sincere hope that urban Indigenous housing conditions and homelessness are prioritized in the federal government’s implementation of the National Housing Strategy, as a matter of human rights and consistent with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The public statement written below was created collectively by AHMA, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing Leilani Farha, and a variety of Indigenous Housing Leaders from across Canada at a public press conference in Toronto at the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres.

We demand the federal government:

  1. Recognize the right to an adequately resourced National Urban and Rural Indigenous Housing Strategy developed and implemented by urban, rural and northern housing and service providers;
  2. Recognise urban, rural and northern housing and service providers as expressions of Indigenous self-determination, as recognised by the Federal Court of Appeal in Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (Misquadis) and as per articles 4, 21 and 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  3. Create new legislation, mirroring the rights and accountability framework articulated in the NHSA, which recognises culturally relevant housing as a human right for Indigenous people in urban, rural and northern areas;
  4. Domesticate and implement the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law;
  5. Finally, we challenge the newly formed government to meet these four demands in the first 100 days of government.


June 15, 2022

Indigenous Housing Reports

The effects of the housing shortage on Indigenous People in Canada

Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs

APTN: Indigenous Services Canada is on track to miss its 2030 target to close the infrastructure gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, according to the House of Commons committee on Indigenous affairs. The committee’s latest report says the department should revise its housing investment strategy if it wants to significantly address the infrastructure crisis by the end of the decade, “since the target will not be met” under the current pace.

“The committee is worried that the current resources allocated to housing are not sufficient for the government to meet the targets it set itself as part of the National Housing Strategy,” the report says. “Changes are required if Canada is to significantly address housing needs by 2030.”

The committee heard from 41 witnesses between March and June as it studied how the housing crisis impacts Indigenous people countrywide. The MPs delivered a 51-page report this week containing 20 recommendations to immediately improve things.

MPs heard the longstanding housing crisis facing First Nations, Inuit and Métis has had “severe consequences” on everything ranging from education and economic development to cultural vitality and physical and mental health.

Community leaders testified that Indigenous people have been deprived of the basic human right to shelter due to colonialism, racism, discrimination, unaffordability, Indian Act paternalism, the lack of a sufficient land base, limited administrative capacity and decades of chronic, wilful underfunding.

“Throughout the country’s colonial history, Inuit, First Nations and Métis have been subjected to atrocities and injustices which have had continued impacts on the subject at the centre of this report: housing,” the committee says. “Colonial policies have affected housing at its core, including by making it less accessible, less affordable and in worse condition.”

The committee opened the study following the delivery of a housing-focused budget by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier this year. The spending plan included $4.3 billion over seven years for Indigenous housing. But the Assembly of First Nations lobby group estimates the true cost of closing the on-reserve housing gap will be about $40 billion: nearly 10 times that amount.

During the 2021 election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated this pledge to close the infrastructure gap by 2030. It’s a topline item in Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu’s mandate letter. The prime minister made a similar promise to end all long-term on-reserve drinking water advisories by 2021 while campaigning to run the country in 2015. The Liberals missed that deadline and refuse to offer a new one more than a year later.

For full details on all 20 recommendations as well as background context on the scope and consequences of the housing shortage and the following contributing factors, click on the following link:

  • Systemic Barriers 
  • Affordability, High Costs and Remoteness 
  • The Indian Act 
  • Limited Land Base and Infrastructure 
  • Population Growth
  • Limited Capacity 


October 21, 2019

Indigenous Housing Reports

UN Special Rapporteur report on Indigenous housing

CBC – In Canada, close to half of all First Nations people live on reserves, and more than 25 per cent of them live in overcrowded conditions, constituting approximately seven times the proportion of non-indigenous people nationally. More than 10,000 on-reserve homes in Canada are without indoor plumbing, and 25 per cent of reserves in Canada have substandard water or sewage systems. In a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 per cent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water, with communities such as Attawapiskat declaring a state of emergency because of toxic chemical levels in the water.

A United Nations report “Adequate housing as a component of a right to an adequate standard of living and the right to non-discrimination in this context” is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world. “(Indigenous people) are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change. “The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada,” said Farha. “That’s really important because the UN’s DRIP isn’t a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is.” (Canadian Press)

In contemporary times, the indigenous struggle for human rights is deeply rooted in the concept of “home”. Understood from an indigenous perspective, this concept is not just about a built structure where one lives, but is about one’s place on the planet, defined through one’s lands, resources, identity and culture. Indigenous peoples the world over have been wrested from their homes: their identities, histories and cultures are denied, their lands are stolen, and they are stripped of their resources through land-grabbing and extractive industries. They are told where they can and cannot live. They are relocated to the least productive lands, and once there, they are denied the necessities of life, such as potable water and sanitation services.

Although indigenous peoples have contributed the least to climate change, they are on the front lines bearing its devastating consequences. In cities, they experience discrimination, grossly inadequate housing and scandalous rates of street homelessness. At worst, housing laws, policies and programmes are completely blind to indigenous peoples’ histories, exacerbating their experiences of colonization, and at best they provide particularized programming that falls short of needs.

See the attached link for the Special Rapporteurs 17 recommendations: