The report highlights the pervasive neglect and egregious human rights violations faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada (North) and it calls for urgent, culturally appropriate, and human rights-based government action to address this issue.
The report begins by providing a historical overview of the factors that have contributed to homelessness among Indigenous peoples including:
- The legacy of colonialism and residential schools has caused widespread trauma and disruption to Indigenous families and communities.
- The ongoing effects of racism and discrimination make it more difficult for Indigenous peoples to access housing, employment, and other essential services.
- The high cost of living in northern communities makes it difficult for many people to afford.
The report then goes on to document the experiences of Indigenous peoples who are currently experiencing homelessness and how these experiences are often marked by poverty, violence, and despair.
Furthermore, the report also provides a number of recommendations for addressing homelessness among Indigenous peoples and these include:
- Investing in affordable housing in northern communities.
- Providing culturally appropriate mental health and addiction services.
- Increasing access to education and employment opportunities.
- Addressing the root causes of homelessness, such as racism and discrimination.
Indigenous peoples deserve to live in safe, secure, and affordable housing whether that’s in Canada, Australia, the United States or New Zealand…. and they also deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Top 8 Recommendations
Here are the key points with citation references:
Background Indigenous Housing Crisis (Page 3):
- Indigenous peoples living in rural, remote, and northern communities across Canada face exacerbated issues of inadequacy, unaffordability, and inaccessibility.
- The legacies of colonial displacement, dislocation, and inadequate investment have resulted in small Inuit communities in the northern territories becoming spaces of inopportunity, poverty, insufficient infrastructure, and deeply inadequate housing.
- These conditions are among the worst in Canada. Yet, studies on these issues have been predominantly informed by southern, settler researchers and methods. Often, these issues are ignored in mainstream discussions on housing and homelessness, with Inuit and northern Indigenous peoples frequently absent from these conversations.
Human Rights Context (Page 6):
- Despite Canada’s commitment to various international human rights treaties, many barriers to adequate housing still exist and are not being addressed in NWT, especially within Indigenous communities. The stories in the research report highlight these barriers.
Challenges and Stark Truths (Page 22):
- Readable Documents: Documents provided by NWT Housing, landlords, and housing providers are often inaccessible and need translation.
- Temporary Shelters: There’s a lack of temporary shelters throughout the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
- Safe Elders Homes: Elders must have access to a safe home.
- Indigenous-led: There’s a need for housing options funded by the government that are Indigenous-led.
- No Evictions: No evictions should occur until alternative housing is found for individuals, especially considering the severe weather conditions.
- Homeownership Programs: Programs must be accessible to ensure people have a way to build homeownership. This can start with more client-friendly readable documents that are translated.
- Stable Homes for People with Disabilities: There’s a need for stable homes for individuals with disabilities.
- Better Partnerships: Improved partnerships between government and income support programs are essential.
The challenges faced by Indigenous communities stem from a combination of historical legacies, inadequate investments, and systemic issues that have not been adequately addressed. The report emphasises the need for a more inclusive and culturally appropriate approach to address these challenges.
Inadequate investments in Indigenous communities
- Indigenous peoples in rural, remote, and northern communities across Canada grapple with heightened issues of housing inadequacy, unaffordability, and inaccessibility.
- The legacies of colonial displacement, dislocation, and insufficient investment have transformed small Inuit communities in the northern territories into areas characterised by lack of opportunities, poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and deeply insufficient housing.
- These conditions rank among the worst in Canada but research on these issues has often been dominated by southern, settler researchers and methodologies. In many instances, these challenges are overlooked in mainstream housing and homelessness discussions, leaving Inuit and northern Indigenous peoples largely unrepresented.
- Many community members struggle to pay rent due to reasons directly linked to Canada’s extensive history of colonialism. A significant number of housing and programs provided are not culturally appropriate, failing to support the unique lifestyles of Inuit and Arctic communities, which differ significantly from other Canadian communities.
- Overcrowding, resulting from the housing shortage in northern communities, often leads to various forms of abuse, poor hygiene, and increased poverty. This overcrowding can deteriorate community health and increase tensions between families.
- Identified as one of the most significant barriers to education. Some individuals have expressed that leaving their community for education can result in the loss of their housing unit. Upon returning, they find themselves on a waiting list, which can take years before they secure a unit.
The need for more inclusive, culturally appropriate, and substantial investments in these communities is evident which also aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Article 4 (UNDRIP)
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
The issues and lack of funding for Indigenous autonomous functions as per UNDRIP in Canada are also a reality in Australia, which also has an Indigenous housing crisis. Additionally, the Australian government has a long history of failing to adequately fund Indigenous programs.
As a result of these factors, Indigenous peoples in Australia and Canada are more likely to live in overcrowded or substandard housing than non-Indigenous people.
And they are also more likely to be homeless.
The Indigenous housing crisis in many Colonial states is a serious problem that has a significant impact on the health, well-being, and economic opportunities of Indigenous peoples.