Indigenous Services Canada wants to transfer control of housing programs to First Nations.
Chris Hoyos, director of policy and communication at the Chiefs of Ontario, says ISC wants to transfer control and funding to First Nations across the country, but that First Nations would basically be inheriting a broken system.
“There is a lot of apprehension around this care and control,” Hoyos told Six Nations of the Grand River elected council’s political liaison committee on Monday. “I don’t think anyone really wants to take on a broken system. The chiefs have called it, ‘managing our own poverty.’ No one’s interested in getting blamed for the housing problems or lack of funding. Your community starts blaming you when the housing programs and services aren’t working properly. ISC and Canada created this broken system.” ISC has a mandate to transfer housing control to First Nations, including funding, and letting them decide how to spend it.
There are no specific timelines for the transfer but Hoyos estimates the transfer could take up to 15 years on most First Nations.
Ontario First Nations were given $150,000 to investigate the idea.
The transfer does not come with any funding guarantees but allows First Nations to negotiate for housing funding, he said.
In reality, he said, First Nations need about $340 billion to address housing and infrastructure needs but that amounts to Canada’s yearly tax revenue.
“It’s been neglected so long that it’s amounted to this,” he said.
Coun. Hazel Johnson wasn’t excited about any transfer of money from ISC.
“It’s almost like they want to hand down all of what they’re doing but they want to keep control of the dollars. I am unable to get excited about any amount of money or the words ‘transfer’ from ISC.”
She scoffed at the suggestion ISC would provide money for shovel-ready projects.
“We’ve had a shovel-ready project for Kawenni:io for about the last five, six, seven years and then they start changing conditions on the proposal. As recent as a couple of weeks ago, things had to be changed again.”
The Kawenni:io private school build project is up to $31 million estimated dollars now.
Coun. Johnson said it would’ve been much less expensive if ISC had provided the funding years ago, when Kawenni:io board members were ready with design drawings.
“I think they got a bag of tricks and delays. Whenever someone talks about something being shovel-ready, they’re nowhere near to getting any money from them. I have little expectation of us getting the amount of money we’ll ever. Six Nations don’t get nowhere near what they need. I feel disappointed with ISC, let’s just put it that way.”
Hoyos said COO is just as apprehensive about the transfer of housing control.
“I don’t think anyone really wants to take on a broken system.”
Before ISC would hand over control, First Nations in Ontario would have to meet a list of prerequisites, such as having adequate infrastructure, like roads, sewers, and broadband Internet.
“This transfer can’t happen yet. There are so many other things that need to be fixed first. You can’t just hand over a broken system to the First Nations.”
ISC was given the mandate to engage in discussions regarding the transfer of housing control in 2020.
Recent statistics show First Nations across the country have housing needs that far outweigh the general population.
In 2021, over one in five First Nations people lived in overcrowded housing, a rate that is seven times greater than non-Indigenous people.
One in six Indigenous people country-wide lives in a house in need of a major repair, three times the amount of the rest of the population.
Indigenous people are the fastest-growing population demographic in Canada.