Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am very pleased to be here with you.
I'm very happy to be with you this morning.
I am physically on the Robinson-Superior Treaty territory area and the homeland of the Fort William First Nation, with, of course, contributions by many Métis people over the years.
I'm very honoured to be speaking to the committee today. I'm thrilled that you're conducting this study on the ability of indigenous people to have adequate, safe and affordable housing. It's an absolute necessity for the work of reconciliation, for safety and security and, in fact, for the economic development and prosperity of indigenous peoples.
Unfortunately, successive governments have not prioritized housing for indigenous peoples. As a result, indigenous peoples are more likely to live in overcrowded homes and experience higher rates of all kinds of challenges, including mould and other poor housing conditions.
The 2016 Census of Population estimates that roughly half of indigenous people live in a dwelling in need of some type of repair, while only one-third of the general population lives in a dwelling of similar conditions. The census also showed that indigenous peoples living on‑reserve are about eight times more likely than non-indigenous peoples off-reserve to live in crowded conditions.
You can see that we have a lot of work to do. Indeed, access to adequate and safe housing is connected to building healthier and more prosperous communities.
Without a safe place to call home, inadequate housing affects children and families, and it makes them more likely to experience respiratory problems. They have a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases like tuberculosis, COVID-19 and, of course, the ongoing mental health challenges that are exacerbated by crowded living.
I've heard many examples of how inadequate housing has affected indigenous people and leaders from coast to coast bring this up as one of the top issues that their communities are facing, but this is not a new situation. I'm thrilled that my mandate from the Prime Minister asks me “to make immediate and long-term investments” to close the housing gap “by 2030”, and I ask the members of this committee to support the government as we prepare to do this crucial work.
The government is working with indigenous partners on long-term approaches to ongoing current gaps and to addressing housing challenges. In August 2021, the Assembly of First Nations and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy released a joint study that identified the need for housing in first nations communities at about 55,000 new units and 81,000 renovations on reserve. To close that gap by 2030, the government is committed to providing immediate and sustained funding for housing on first nations.
I'm working together with first nations partners to codevelop the national first nations housing and related infrastructure strategy. This plan was endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations chiefs in 2018, and I'm committed to working with the Assembly of First Nations toward the advancement and implementation of the strategy.
Through the implementation of this strategy, first nations access to sustainable housing will be increased in a way that meets their needs and priorities, respects regional and cultural differences and supports the transition to first nations care, control and management of housing, based on their capacity and their prioritization. Both organizations play complementary roles in addressing housing needs on reserves. While ISC handles funding directed towards capital infrastructure, loan guarantees, housing innovation and capacity building, CMHC focuses on social housing and renovations.
I'm also working with my cabinet colleagues to implement the Inuit Nunangat housing strategy and the Métis housing subaccord. I'm also working with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion and the Minister of Northern Affairs on the codevelopment of a northern, urban and rural indigenous housing strategy.
The government has made a number of important investments to ameliorate the need for housing in indigenous communities and for indigenous peoples. Since 2016, and as of September 30, 2021, the government has supported the construction and repair of homes for first nations households and communities on reserve. This includes building 7,873 new homes and the repair of well over 15,000. The figures don't include the units that are funded through the national housing strategy and its programs.
In addition to new constructions and renovations, ISC is also acquiring and servicing 1,384 lots, of which 1,035 are complete and 349 are in progress.
In the 2021 budget, we announced new investments to improve infrastructure, including housing.
This additional funding will financially support first nations communities to build 800 new homes, renovate 2,000 housing units and ensure that 500 additional lots are being serviced. We know that these kinds of investments make a huge difference in the lives of families and individuals.
Mr. Chair, as I said in my opening remarks, this is a very important study that you will be conducting, and the work the government is doing with first nations and indigenous people is just a start. The need is great. You will hear that from witnesses, and there is much more to do, but this government is committed to making the investments to reach the 2030 goal and close the housing gap for indigenous peoples.
Meegwetch. Nakurmiik. Marsi. Thank you.