Thank you. It's truly an honour to be among you all today, so thank you for the invitation.
To the other panel members, thank you very much. I'm really enjoying this discussion.
I'm based out of NWAC's national office in Quebec, but I'm speaking to you today from my home in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, the land of the Beothuk.
NWAC believes that addressing indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people's access to housing is a necessary step forward in addressing the ongoing process of genocide in Canada. It is important to ground the basic right of housing for indigenous peoples in UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 23 is engaged. I would also argue, based on the last panel member's submissions, that article 3, self-determination, is always a part of this discussion as well.
Honourable members, indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people experience unique challenges in accessing affordable and safe housing. It is evident that ongoing challenges with colonialism, infrastructure and race- and gender-based discrimination continue to prevent indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people from accessing appropriate housing resources. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, MMIWG, reported that indigenous women tend to experience high rates of violence because they lack housing. In the 231 calls for justice, honourable members, there are 10 calls for improving access to housing for indigenous women.
NWAC is working hard to help. We are very stretched, but we are helping. Under NWAC's environmental conservation and climate change office, the housing project's objective was to conduct research and engage with indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people to determine what their needs are and how they can be fulfilled.
The housing project report was published on March 31, 2020. I'm going to take a couple of highlights from it. It's all very important. I encourage you to read it on your own time. “Extreme weather and coastal erosion brought on by climate change”—so that's a part of the discussion as well—“are already destroying the inadequate housing stock in Inuit Nunangat”. The housing in the north has unique and varying factors.
Also, as a backdrop to this discussion, according to Caryl Patrick:
Sections 28 and 29 of the Indian Act prohibit lending institutions from seizing on-reserve assets in the event of payment default. This makes them rarely willing to lend to First Nations people on reserve, making it extremely difficult for First Nations people to obtain financing to build or renovate their homes on reserve.... The result is an acute shortage of housing, which, along with population growth, makes it inevitable for families to crowd into any available shelter, no matter how poorly maintained.
According to an interim report by APPA, in the other House:
Building codes are not developed for Northern climates...and many houses were not designed for local climates and soil conditions, or were built with subpar building materials.... Poor housing conditions have also led to an increase in house fires; the rate of fire deaths on-reserve is 10 times higher than that of off-reserve populations.
Further, according to the Manitoba office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:
Due to extreme housing shortages, such as in Canada's North, Indigenous women (and their children) can be forced to stay with abusive partners simply because they have nowhere else to go.... If they do choose to flee their abusive homes, they can be forced into exploitative situations to meet their (and their children's) basic needs.
This is increasing the risks of homelessness.
In sum, honourable members, access to safe and good housing is necessary to ensure that the health and safety of indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people are protected. Ultimately, indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people are experts of their own experiences and must be involved in the development and implementation strategies that address indigenous housing needs.
The MMIWG calls for justice must be implemented.
NWAC would like to bring special attention to those relating to housing under the headings of “Human Security”, “Child Welfare” and “2SLGBTQQIA-Specific Calls for Justice”.
Thank you, honourable members and panel members.