A number of years ago my husband and our then two children were scrambling to quickly try to rent a home on Six Nations. We were living in a rented home on the borderline between Six Nations and New Credit and suddenly found ourselves homeless.
A letter was sent to us by the New Credit Band Council, giving us 14 days to leave the home we were renting because we were not band members. We were threatened with fines and jail time if we did not comply in time.
The next two weeks were a flurry of activity. Our children were seven and nine months old at the time of our eviction and with no advance warning and no savings we were facing homelessness.
Brantford’s Native Housing was not able to offer immediate help and told me there was a 10-year waiting list. The lone home for rent on Six Nations that month was a mouse infested trailer that had no heat and they were asking $1200 for rent.
Thankfully we were able to move in with family. For the next year and a half our family of four shared a 13’ x 20’ bedroom in my father-in-law’s home.
Sadly, this is not the worst-case scenario for housing on Six. Residents are all too familiar with multiple families bunking in together — often sharing a space far too small for their needs.
When homes are available for rent the standards are not the same as off reserve. This leaves renters like myself and our family open to facing homelessness in a very short period of time with little to no recourse available to protect our families.
Six Nations needs bylaws that protect our people. And our people need a reasonable body that will govern and enforce those bylaws to keep community members safe.
While the federal and provincial governments keep reaching further and further in to govern on-reserve activities — do we really want that? As of now the application of the Residential Tenancies Act on reserve is questionable. On the flip side, no one wants to be facing radicalized evictions to the extreme that Kahnawake’s council has taken. Something that has pulled the community’s band council and sovereign right into federal courts for violating band members human rights.
Perhaps it would also do the community well to see regulations — prohibiting non-band members from renting commercial space on reserve as well.
We need on-reserve housing that is clean, well-cared for and safe. But further to that — we need housing regulations that will protect renters in the community from being overcharged by landlords and under protected by those who wish to lord over the rest of us.