HANSARD: Jenny asked if government would ensure that there are meaningful investments for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy in budget 2023

House of Commons Debate
Indigenous Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings
November 23rd, 2022 / 7:05 p.m.

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, on September 27, I asked the Minister of Housing if he would ensure that there are meaningful investments in a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy in budget 2023. When the minister heard the story of a young indigenous woman in Ottawa who was murdered because she lacked access to safe and affordable housing, he said, “words fail me”.

The missing murdered and indigenous women's inquiry’s final report cites housing 299 times, yet the empty words of the government continue to fail indigenous people. UNDRIP is clear that all indigenous people, including those living away from their home communities, have a right to safe and adequate housing. The government has a legal obligation to implement this basic human right, but in budget 2022, the Liberal government allocated just $300 million over five years to establish a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy. This amount is woefully inadequate. The NDP has consistently called on the Liberals to invest sufficient funds to meet the need.

To be clear, $300 million is not even enough to address the housing needs of indigenous people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but the Liberals were content to spend this money over five years for research and administrative purposes. This is a cruel joke. As a result of the supply and confidence agreement, the NDP is forcing the Liberals to accelerate the timeline to roll out funding over two years and ensure that the money is used for an interim emergency fund for urgent unmet needs, which is work now being undertaken by Indigenous Services Canada.

It is shocking, however, that the government continues to insist on the need for more data and research. If the dire housing crisis facing indigenous people was not bad enough, the government is placing further burden on them by forcing them to prove their level of need. The government has more than enough data to justify the needed investments.

In May 2021, a report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities recommended sufficient and long-term funding to be allocated to support a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy. Here are some of the numbers detailed in the report.

Indigenous households are 1.2 times more likely to live in inadequate and/or unsuitable housing than non-indigenous households and are disproportionately unhoused. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, 124,000 indigenous off-reserve households were in housing need in 2020, while 9,000 households in Winnipeg and 8,000 households in Vancouver alone were in housing need. About 50% of the 700 indigenous youth who will age out of foster care in Vancouver each year will end up on the streets. 

According to the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, 73,000 units are needed in urban, rural and northern indigenous communities to meet the housing shortfall. CHRA has called for an investment of $25 billion over 10 years, while $1.89 billion is needed to build 3,000 housing units in Nunavut alone. However, the government believes $300 million is a record investment. It is unbelievable.

Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people living away from their home communities have the right to housing. It is clearly outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is time for real action.



Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Hochelaga, QC
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)

Madam Speaker, our government recognizes that indigenous people, regardless of where they live, face unique barriers to finding housing that they can afford and that meets their needs.

We know that decent housing is essential to improving social and health outcomes and providing a dignified future for indigenous communities and children. To get it right, we know that the solutions we develop must be “for indigenous people, by indigenous people”. That is why our most recent budget reiterated our commitment to working with indigenous communities to jointly develop and launch a housing strategy for indigenous people in urban, rural and northern communities. 

This is just one element of the most recent budget that addresses indigenous housing. It is in addition to the $4-billion investment over seven years to Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to accelerate work to close the housing gap for indigenous people.

Our rapid housing initiative, created to respond to urgent housing needs during the pandemic, was extremely successful with indigenous groups. During the first two phases, indigenous peoples represented over 40% of recipients. Budget 2022 allocated an additional $1.5 billion to the rapid housing initiative. This funding will provide even more support for building and improving housing for indigenous people.

During a committee meeting, Vice-Chief Richard Derocher of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council expressed appreciation for the CMHC's work to make housing available on reserve, especially housing for people with low incomes. He said he hoped to see more of it.

There is still a lot of work to do to improve indigenous housing conditions, just as there is still a lot of work to do to advance reconciliation in this country. That is why we will keep working with first nations, Inuit and Métis organizations to jointly develop tailored housing strategies that meet their communities' unique needs and are based on the principle of self-determination.



Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should know that distinctions-based housing is not dedicated for a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, nor is the funding from the RHI dedicated for indigenous people specifically. The parliamentary secretary should know that and the government should know that.

That is why the NDP is forcing the government to take action with the interim funding and the $300 million, but that is not enough. What we want to see, and what we must see, is real investment to meet need in budget 2023. If the government is serious about reconciliation, honouring indigenous people and abiding by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it must take real action and invest to meet need, not just talk.


Soraya Martinez Ferrada Hochelaga, QC
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the housing supply problem in Canada. That is why first nations communities and also Métis and Inuit communities have been made a priority in our housing initiatives to date, and will continue to be a priority.

In our 2022 budget, we committed to investing billions of dollars to expedite the work of addressing the housing shortage for indigenous peoples. As a result of the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy proposed in the budget, future housing activities will be inclusive and appropriate.

This strategy must meet the needs of indigenous communities as defined by the communities themselves and result in a dignified future for indigenous communities.
https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/11/23/jenny-kwan-1/
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