Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I thank the committee for this invitation, and I take this opportunity to acknowledge that we are gathered on traditional Algonquin territory.
My name is Lyse Langevin, and I'm here today to represent Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. I would like to take this time to discuss the measures INAC is undertaking towards improving the well-being of northerners and indigenous people, including seniors.
The trend toward aging in the indigenous population is slower than in the non-indigenous population. According to the 2011 census, nearly 83,000 individuals 65 years and older identified as indigenous. This represented 5.9% of the indigenous population.
Indigenous elders play a primary role in their communities in order to pass on and carry forward indigenous culture, stories, traditions, values, teachings, and languages to the younger generation. In their families and communities, seniors are vital sources of oral traditional knowledge, wisdom, and cultural continuity.
However, seniors are vulnerable within our society. They encounter barriers to socio-economic well-being, and this reality is even more challenging for northern and indigenous people.
Within INAC, the Assisted Living Program provides funding for non-medical social support services to low-income seniors who live on reserve. The program is administered and delivered at the community level by first nations themselves.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the most recent year for which we have complete figures, the Assisted Living Program spent $106 million and provided social support services to 8,475 vulnerable clients, most of whom were seniors.
The In-Home Care component of this program provides social support services to low-income seniors, adults with chronic illness, as well as children and adults with mental and physical disabilities so that they can maintain functional independence while remaining in their homes and in their communities.
The Institutional Care component of the Assisted Living Program provides financial support to low-income seniors, adults with chronic illness, as well as children and adults with mental and physical disabilities who are unable to live independently and who must be cared for in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home or personal care home.
Providing assisted living program services in the homes of seniors is only possible if they have access to affordable housing that enables them to live in their homes for longer. This is also true for indigenous seniors living on reserve, in rural and urban areas, and in the north.
INAC provides an average of $146 million annually, directly to first nations, for housing support. This can be used at their discretion to meet a range of housing needs, including adapting the homes of their members, which include seniors. In addition, budget 2016 provided $554.3 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, for housing. Of this amount, $416.6 million over two years was provided to INAC to address immediate housing needs on reserve, with $137.7 million over two years provided to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to also support the renovation and retrofitting of housing on reserve.
The department has already invested $267.5 million of budget 2016 allocations to support the construction, service, and renovation of 3,300 housing units. This funding also supported 560 projects to increase first nations' capacity related to the maintenance, management, and governance of on-reserve housing, and to improve access to alternative financing. As you are aware, budget 2017 also proposes to invest an additional $4 billion over 10 years, starting in 2018-19, to build and improve housing, water treatment systems, health facilities, and other community infrastructure.
Furthermore, to address urgent housing needs in the north and in Inuit communities, the Government of Canada provided $176.7 million in budget 2016, over two years. Specifically from this envelope, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided a total of $96.7 million to the three territories through its investment in the affordable housing initiative. INAC provided a total of $80 million to the three Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit. This funding will enable our Inuit partners to oversee the construction of new housing units and to bring much-needed repairs to existing housing stock.
It is estimated that budget 2016's investment will result in the construction of 193 new housing units. This will reduce overcrowding and help to address related issues that are of particular concern to seniors, such as accessibility and respiratory illnesses. INAC funding is being provided directly to Inuit land claim holders, in the spirit of the Inuit-to-crown relationship. Inuit seniors have played a particularly important role in providing advice on the design of homes so that they meet the socio-cultural needs of Inuit, and better reflect their lifestyles, traditions, and cultures.
In closing, the department has taken action to improve the wellness of indigenous peoples by addressing the socio-economic challenges they face; however, we recognize that much remains to be done. We are committed to continuing the collaboration with indigenous leaders and communities, provinces and territories, and other key partners, on improving socio-economic conditions for vulnerable indigenous seniors in Canada.
I look forward to our discussion today. Thank you.
Thank you. Meegwetch.