Ronald Harper, the Housing Manager from Wasagamack, Professor Alex Wilson from University of Saskatchewan and Professor Shirley Thompson from University of Manitoba were invited to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Conference in Ottawa for the partnership panel in November 2018. First Nation Architect, Douglas Cardinal, provided a brilliant keynote. As well as our panel talk, where we delivered a manifesto to change housing policy, we made a short video at the CMHC video booth. In this video we asked CMHC to deliver more housing through employment programs in the community. So more housing mortgages = more local employment and training program = healthy housing and healthy First Nation communities.
Our CMHC abstract was a manifesto asking for a change in housing policy at the provincial and federal levels to support First Nation housing, rather than undermine it as currently occurs. The abstract read:
“The shortage of livable housing in First Nation communities has resulted in unhealthy overcrowding, delapitated housing and homelessness, particularly in fly-in communities. First Nation communities are keen to build culturally appropriate, durable next generation homes using local resources. The Boreal Home Building post-secondary training program is building four culturally-appropriate houses using local wood resources with post-secondary students from two fly-in communities, Wasagamack First Nation, Garden Hill First Nation, partnering with the University of Manitoba’s Mino Bimaadiziwin partnership. As well, Idle No More has designed and built homes with and for First Nations with local wood and is designing a muskrat house to provide sustainable utilities (energy for cooking, bathing, water, and treating wastewater) when on the land. These community solutions battle against debilitating policies of the federal government, including:
1) timber grading licenses for structural lumber (needed for National Building Code and CMHC funding) are only available at industrial-scale, so that the cost and required amounts make community-scale grading impossible;
2) the lack of any mortgagee for housing (CMHC included) to third party managed First Nations, who typically need housing the most;
3) welfare policy that discourages people, particularly those with large families, seeking training and education for fear of losing their welfare funding, their CMHC housing entitlement and their electrical subsidies from small allowances;
4) federal policy directives not to loan or fund First Nation sawmills, etc.
Then, at the provincial level, apprenticeship programs fail First Nation students due to their rigidity and focus on urban buildings; and the lack of any subsidy by the province for college and university programs occurring on reserve resulting in fee-for-service bills for post-secondary education for fly-in communities of $2,000/student/month or upwards.”