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PM won’t say if First Nations on Prairies will be compensated for housing shortfall

April 4, 2024

AFN regional chief hoping to make headway at meetings in Ottawa.

APTN News: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t say whether First Nations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be compensated after the Auditor General found they’ve been shortchanged for years on federal housing funds.

Trudeau was in Winnipeg Wednesday to announce $1.5. billion for a new Canada Rental Protection Fund and didn’t answer the question when asked by APTN News.

“We’re going to continue to work with Indigenous communities right across the country to meet the tremendous housing needs that we know are faced by communities,” Trudeau told reporters at the announcement. ”That’s why we stepped up significantly with billions of dollars in Indigenous, particularly First Nations and Metis housing.

“We’re going to continue to make sure that we’re building those homes across the Prairies and indeed across the country for Indigenous communities.”

Last month, Auditor General Karen Hogan chastised the federal government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for “hopelessly falling behind” in funding First Nations housing on reserve.

Her report found that on the Prairies, CMHC relied on data from the 2001 Census to determine annual funding for new home development and repairs. It also found the effect of not updating the data “resulted in First Nations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba being significantly underfunded and therefore not receiving their equitable share of funding.”

Alberta was underfunded by $141 million, Saskatchewan by $72.92 million and Manitoba by $60 million, according to the report for a total of $274 million.

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Feds, CMHC have made ‘little progress’ with First Nations housing problems

Arthur Noskey, grand chief of Treaty 8 in Alberta, says it’s an example of the federal government not honouring the treaties.

“I come from a membership that is about 700 population and at a time we kind of got into this process [housing] in ‘92. In 1992, our housing funding was $137,000 – so going on 30 years plus, it’s still $137,000,” Noskey told APTN News in an interview.

CMHC, the federal agency in charge of doling out millions for housing – including to First Nations – also wouldn’t answer the question.

“We will continue to work with our partners on this matter but have nothing further to add,” said spokesperson David Harris in an emailed statement.

AFN regional chief goes to Ottawa

Brendan Mitchell, a regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations who is responsible for the housing file, plans to follow up on the issue at a series of upcoming meetings in Ottawa.

“If you have poor housing, you’re likely to have poor health outcomes, poor education outcomes and, yes, possibly poor life outcomes,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Mitchell said he has already met with Peter Fragiskatos, parliamentary secretary to Sean Fraser, the minister of housing, infrastructure and communities, and other bureaucrats.

“We talked about overcrowding in housing units; we talked a lot about homelessness and encampments and both of those are tied together,” he added, noting it was a “good conversation” but a number of key figures were missing.

“I was disappointed that not enough ministers showed up there and I think they were invited and none of them came,” he told APTN News. “But I had a commitment from the parliamentary secretary [Fragiskatos] to try and arrange a meeting with minister Fraser and hoping to get a face to face very shortly.”

APTN reached out to Fraser’s office to ask about a potential meeting but did not receive a response.

Karen Hogan’s report

Auditor General Karen Hogan at a news conference in Ottawa when she released her report on housing. Photo: Fraser Needham/APTN.

According to Hogan, neither the federal government or CMHC “prioritized their limited funding for communities with the greatest housing needs.”

“For example, we found that, overall, First Nations communities with the poorest housing conditions received less funding than communities of the same size with better housing conditions.”

The auditor’s report found there are 119,000 housing units in approximately 600 First Nations in Canada. Yet, communities need 55,320 new housing units and repairs to 80,650 units to “close the housing gap.”

The federal government promised to close the gap in First Nations housing by 2030 but Mitchell doesn’t think it will happen.

“That gap is going to widen by 2030  -not close,” he said. “If anyone thinks we’re going to be on top of this thing by 2030 I’ve got news for them, it’s never going to happen.”

With files from Chris Stewart and Danielle Paradis

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