Calgary, Alberta – Treaty No. 7 First Nations will meet on May 23-24 to inform and talk about housing issues; and to create an opportunity of exchange and discussion. “Sharing Our Knowledge with the Next Generation” will highlight the challenges First Nations face to advance First Nations controlled and sustainable housing toward addressing the housing crisis in Treaty 7 communities.
The current crisis in First Nations housing has drawn attention in the headlines recently, but many Indian reserves have been struggling with housing shortages and substandard living conditions for years. A recent federal evaluation of First Nations housing concluded that the housing shortage on reserves is severe and only getting worse. According to a 2011 report, 20,000 to 35,000 new units would need to be built to meet current demand (the Assembly of First Nations puts the figure closer to 85,000).
Housing on reserves falls short by almost any measure and especially when compared with housing off reserve: 41.5 per cent of homes on reserves need major repairs, compared with seven per cent in non-aboriginal households outside reserves. Rates of overcrowding are six times greater on reserve than off. In many communities, it's not uncommon to have three generations living under one roof – not by choice but by necessity.
Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaselhead says it is critical to connect with First Nations, government and with health professionals to ensure participation and collaboration for the purpose of closing the gap in living conditions between FNs and the rest of Canada. “This can be achieved through strategizing and promoting understanding of First Nation ways of life and plans that take into account a holistic process to health and wellness, including some of the factors that affect the health of our peoples and communities, such as the crises in housing and other socio-economic factors, says Weaselhead.
“As we all know, when a comparison between our communities and non-First Nations’ is made, First Nations have an extreme disadvantage. Living conditions or quality of life ranks 63rd in the world, amongst Third World conditions...Canada dropped from first to eighth as the best country in the world to live, primarily due to housing and health conditions in our communities. Numerous studies over the years have listed the serious problems with housing and infrastructure for First Nations: shortages in housing units leading to severe overcrowding; lack of plumbing; clean drinking water; no electricity; poor insulation; toxic mould; substandard construction; and, a huge accumulation of units in need of major repair.”
The two-day Housing Symposium will focus on solutions, recommendations and input from community leaders and citizens, housing professionals, department managers, government and Elders. Arnold Jerry is the Symposium organizer and Director of Housing for the Treaty 7 Management Corporation (T7MC). He says the symposium will also focus on areas such as occupational health and safety, matrimonial law, residency bylaws, disaster planning and the impact of First Nations gangs.
“There are many unanswered questions that we need to deal with and some of the more serious issues could easily get out of hand if they aren’t dealt with quickly. Waiting around for government or others to take action isn’t the answer; we need to come together and we need to work collectively; many, if not most of our concerns (in Treaty 7 and nationally) are the same. I am confident that the delegates will come away with a better understanding of the issues and what must be done to ensure our longevity,” says Mr. Jerry.
The Symposium is open to everyone in Treaties 6, 7 and 8 at no charge. Jerry said he’s interested in hearing what others have to say and wants to get as much input as possible. “Community leaders, members, planners, housing administrators, contractors and builders will garner significant benefits, that’s because much of the discussion will focus on making improvements to existing practices, especially as those practices relate to construction techniques, housing maintenance, occupational health and safety and mold remediation, for example,” says the T7MC Housing Director. “We have to look at educating the community about how they can live more comfortably, how they can participate and how each of us can play a role in creating positive change.”
Insurance issues, occupational health and safety and federal responsibilities are other areas that will be explored at the Symposium. “Disaster services are another area that will be addressed at the symposium. Our communities are close to oil and gas production and railway tracks that are a proven source of concern. An oil spill, just like a major fire or flood, creates havoc on the land; if something like a container of ammonia was to spill it could potentially wipe out most of the community. Who is responsible for ensuring that disaster measures are in place? Aboriginal peoples primarily live in rural regions, far away from city fire trucks and emergency crews; we need to ensure that if an emergency or disaster situation should arise, we are able to respond in kind.”
The Aboriginal Housing Symposium at the Coast Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre in Calgary, AB. will also feature a trade show on-site and a golf tournament at the Heather Glen Golf Course. The event is open to all First Nations in Treaties 6, 7 and 8 at no charge.
- 30 -For more information on First Nations Housing please contact:
Arnold Jerry at: email@example.comFor more information on the symposium
, including full details and how to register, check out our Events section www.treaty7.org/EventsCalendar.aspx
Crystal Doore at (403) 539-0350 or firstname.lastname@example.org