Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak further to a question I asked on September 26 on housing in first nations communities.
During the last Parliament, as the official opposition critic on housing, I visited several first nations communities as part of an organized Canada-wide tour. I was greatly dismayed to see how bad the housing crisis is and the unacceptable conditions in which members of these communities are living.
I saw with my own two eyes the overcrowded housing, covered in mould, that was hastily constructed with materials that are not suitable to the weather conditions and built without taking into consideration the traditional way of life of first nations and the Inuit.
The NDP considers housing to be a basic right. In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which obliges nations to take appropriate steps to ensure the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.
Unfortunately, the right to housing has never been entrenched in Canadian law. In the spring, I introduced Bill C-264, which aims to add the right to housing to the Canadian Bill of Rights to ensure that everyone can live with dignity and in security. I hope to one day debate my bill with my colleagues in the House.
Recognizing the right to housing also carries the obligation to take reasonable measures to eliminate barriers to housing and to the full exercise of that right. The federal government has sole responsibility for funding housing on reserve.
A few weeks ago, in response to a request for information from my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada had this to say about current housing conditions:
According to a needs assessment study based on the National Household Survey 2006, the housing shortage on reserve is expected to rise to approximately 115,000 units by 2031. Data from the 2009-2011 National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems indicates that 20,000 units need to be built on reserve in order to reduce the average number of persons by household to four people per home (on-reserve average), and 81,000 houses are needed to reduce it to the 2.5 Canadian average. Moreover, as of 2011, almost 41% of households on reserve are dwellings in need of major repair and mould or mildew has been reported in 51% of units.
Despite that information, the government decided to fund the construction of only 300 new units per year in 2016 and 2017; in other words, it only agreed to fund 3% of the 20,000 units needed to address the crisis.
When the minister answers our questions saying that she finds the situation unacceptable, I have to agree. However, she also likes to tell us that her government is making historic investments in first nations. If you look at information from her own department, it is clear that the minister needs to do a lot more to convince me that she is truly committed to addressing this crisis.
As long as the government fails to cough up enough funds to address this unacceptable situation, I think we can hardly describe its investment as historic.
The government is not doing enough to support affordable housing for non-indigenous Canadians, let alone for indigenous Canadians. First nation and Inuit people are not second-class citizens.
When will the minister do what it takes to resolve this situation?