IN PARLIAMENT: VIDEO - Calling for the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy promised by the Liberal government

Madam Speaker, on April 8, 2022, I rose to ask the government when it would invest in a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy, which it has promised since 2017 but has failed to deliver. After the NDP pushed for action, the Liberals proposed just $300 million to initiate a strategy over five years. This is hardly a drop in the bucket and is not good enough. We need a federal government response that meets the gravity of this national crisis.
The situation in my community is so dire that it literally keeps me up at night. People are dying and lives are at stake. On July 25, fire officials issued an order to immediately disperse an encampment of the unhoused, who are disproportionately represented by indigenous people seeking shelter and community together in tents along East Hastings Street, citing serious fire safety concerns. When these tents come down, there will be nowhere for people to go. Meanwhile, residents are being increasingly targeted by threats of violence and criminalized by authorities.
There are simply not enough safe and affordable homes for people to move into. There are currently more than 2,000 identified homeless individuals in the city, and this number is likely an undercounting. About 40% are indigenous, meaning that indigenous people are nearly 18 times more likely to be homeless in Vancouver compared with the rest of the population.

Indigenous Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings
September 20th, 2022 / 7:20 p.m.
Madam Speaker, on April 8, 2022, I rose to ask the government when it would invest in a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy, which it has promised since 2017 but has failed to deliver. After the NDP pushed for action, the Liberals proposed just $300 million to initiate a strategy over five years. This is hardly a drop in the bucket and is not good enough. We need a federal government response that meets the gravity of this national crisis.

The situation in my community is so dire that it literally keeps me up at night. People are dying and lives are at stake. On July 25, fire officials issued an order to immediately disperse an encampment of the unhoused, who are disproportionately represented by indigenous people seeking shelter and community together in tents along East Hastings Street, citing serious fire safety concerns. When these tents come down, there will be nowhere for people to go. Meanwhile, residents are being increasingly targeted by threats of violence and criminalized by authorities.

There are simply not enough safe and affordable homes for people to move into. There are currently more than 2,000 identified homeless individuals in the city, and this number is likely an undercounting. About 40% are indigenous, meaning that indigenous people are nearly 18 times more likely to be homeless in Vancouver compared with the rest of the population.

Unhoused people also face serious health concerns and challenges. Many have chronic substance use issues and physical or mental illness. Health needs cannot be met while surviving on the streets. At least 225 unhoused people have died in Vancouver over the last five years. This is the reality today in Canada, and the government needs to face this truth.

In August 2020, I joined the B.C. provincial government and the mayor of Vancouver to call on the government to urgently enter into a fifty-fifty cost-sharing agreement with the province to build more supportive housing and acquire new housing stock, yet the government did not even respond to this call. On August 3, 2022, I wrote to the minister again with an urgent call for action. Again there was no response.

On August 23, I wrote a letter, jointly with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, to the minister. A month later, there was not even an acknowledgement that the minister received the letter. Instead of responding to the crisis, the minister is choosing to just ignore the plight of the unhoused. It is as though they do not exist, that their lives do not matter.

The NDP has been raising the alarm on the housing crisis for decades, but the government continues the pattern of previous Liberal and Conservative inaction. In fact, it was the Liberals under Paul Martin who cancelled the national housing strategy in 1993. Since that time, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have allowed displacements caused by real estate developers, renovictions, demovictions and the financialization of housing by landlords, REITs and private equity firms looking to maximize profits by driving up rents.

The housing and homelessness crisis is not inevitable. It is a failure of policy, resources and political will. Through immediate intervention, through action and through a human rights-based approach, it can be solved.

Therefore, I am asking this once again: Will the government commit today to adopting a human rights approach and adequately investing in a “for indigenous, by indigenous” urban, rural and northern housing strategy?

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons: Madam Speaker, in so many ways, the member is wrong. We have seen a government, under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, virtually from the very beginning back in 2015, that has taken a very progressive and aggressive attitude both in legislation and in the form of budgetary measures to support housing, in essence bringing forward a national housing strategy, billions of dollars overall.

It is having an impact. I would challenge the member to indicate what government in the last 50 or 60 years has invested more in housing in Canada. I will give some help to the member in terms of the answer: She will not find a government that has invested more than the current government has done over the last six years. We have made significant investments. Let me highlight a few when it comes to the important issue of indigenous people.

In collaboration with ISC and the CMHC, as of December 31, 2021, first nations have been able to support the construction, renovation and retrofitting of 25,102 homes on reserves, of which 17,432 have been completed. To support housing in Inuit and Métis communities, $980 million has been announced by our government since 2016. These investments have been provided to partners, and thousands of Inuit and Métis families are now living in new and renovated homes via strategies led by indigenous partners.

In the 2022 budget, we announced an additional $4 billion in funding for indigenous housing over seven years to accelerate work in closing indigenous housing gaps, including $2.4 billion over five years to support first nation housing on reserves, $845 million over seven years for housing in Inuit communities, $190 million over seven years for housing in Métis communities and $565 million over five years for housing in self-governing and modern treaty first nation communities.

Lastly, through the indigenous homes innovation initiative, we are supporting creative projects led by indigenous people to design and build more effective, sustainable and culturally inspired living spaces, some of which will specifically support indigenous women and girls from other vulnerable populations.

This government has committed and followed through on a wide spectrum of dealings in terms of Canada's housing crisis. I could easily spend the next 20 or 30 minutes just talking about some of those initiatives. We would have to go back many years, if in fact one could find a year, to find a government that has invested more in housing. If one does a comparison with the NDP platform back in 2015, we have out-measured and outdone that platform by a country mile.

This is a government that understands the value of housing to Canadians from coast to coast to coast and continues to work with indigenous leadership to ensure that wherever the federal government can play a role, it is, in fact, playing a role. We understand the importance of reconciliation and the way in which housing plays a critical role in it.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC: Madam Speaker: I do not know what rock this member has been living under. The truth of the matter is this: It was the Liberals who cancelled the national affordable housing program back in 1993. The NDP called for the government to build 500,000 units of true affordable housing to meet that need, a gap that the Liberals created when they cancelled the national affordable housing program.

The member can talk all he wants. All he has to do is open his eyes. I invite him and the minister and the Prime Minister to come to Vancouver East and see for themselves the people who are unhoused in our community today, who are dying today, who are being criminalized today, and for him to say those words to their faces, that somehow their lives do not matter and that the Liberals are doing all that needs to be done to address the housing crisis.

Shame on the member. He has not paid any attention to the truth nor faced the truth.
Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates

Connect with Jenny