A necessary step towards housing for all
For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples found ways to live symbiotically as part of the ecosystem located on what is today named Canada. Their occupation of the territory was managed according to values that regarded land as a resource to be respected in order to be sustainable for itself and all its inhabitants.
In that system, the land welcomed the people and, in return for this hospitality, those living on and from it had the shared responsibility to protect that relationship, thus ensuring their own survival as well as that of future generations.
When the first Europeans came to this territory, Indigenous Peoples did not particularly welcome nor resent their arrival. It was merely the introduction of one more actor in a space already shared between many groups.
What changed with this new group is the vision that the land, instead of being something you respected and shared, became something to be owned and traded. This paradigm change in the relationships between the territory and the people was neither hoped, desired, discussed, negotiated, nor agreed upon by Indigenous Peoples.
In essence, the forced imposition of a new type of relationship between people as well as the management of the land by a foreign group for its sole profit is the definition of colonialism. Colonialism is a system that establishes every relationship, would it be economic, cultural or social, to be advantageous to the colonial agent and detrimental to the Indigenous one.
The Community Housing Transformation Centre acknowledges those hundreds of years of systematic unbalanced and unfair relationships as the primary source and driver of the ever-increasing housing crisis Indigenous individuals, communities and nations are facing.
The Centre is convinced that the notion of community housing, meaning homes collectively owned and managed to answer the needs and rights of all to be sheltered appropriately in return of a contribution (financial and social) established in accordance with their means, is largely inspired by values and knowledge attuned to the Indigenous traditions and understanding of the world.
As such, the Centre is convinced that championing community housing is one of the paths toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and the construction of a sustainable social and economic model based on respect, trust, cooperation and collaboration between and toward individuals, communities, peoples and the land. When properly implemented, community housing is an empowering tool to achieve one’s rights, capacities and hopes, while strengthening the whole of community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Based on that analysis, the Centre recognizes that the colonization of the said territory over the past 500 years has been carried out through a process marked by systematic practices of banditry, violence, contempt, predation, discrimination, racism and aggression against Indigenous individuals, peoples and nations, including the Inuit and Métis. We firmly believe that colonization and its harmful effects will continue as long as Canadian society, its institutions and the population in general, does not recognize this state of affairs and neglects to carry out acts of reparation and reconciliation commensurate with this abuse. As an organization working for the full realization of the right to housing for all, it is obvious to us that this right cannot be achieved without special intervention to correct the situation created by the systemic denial of the rights of Indigenous Peoples of this land.
In addition, we affirm our hope and ambition that Canadian society will recognize and facilitate leadership, ownership and appropriation by the Indigenous Peoples themselves of the tools and actions leading to the respect of their rights and aspirations. Finally, we are convinced that these gestures are a prerequisite for the accomplishment of the right to housing for all, including by other groups facing discrimination such as linguistic minorities, racialized people, women, LGBTQ+ and people living with disability.
Upon those assertions and ambitions, the Centre commits to:
- Promote the criticality of reconciliation within and outside the Centre
- Focus on and respond to Calls to Action related to Indigenous Peoples
- Engage and support Indigenous-led and/or managed housing providers and support their transformation agendas
- Create tools and training to support community housing providers in reconciliation efforts.
Learn about News and Awarded Projects that relate to
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
The Community Housing Transformation Centre’s staff began 2022 with a renewed zeal to act on our organization’s commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. In our January newsletter, we invited other community housing providers, housing co-operatives or community-led organizations working with tenants to join us in learning about First Nations, Inuit and Métis People.
Indigenous communities across Canada often face critical housing shortages and the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland are no exception. The Flat Bay Band’s No’kmaw Village Tenants Strategy helps people with lived experience craft strategic housing plans that will allow more Mi’kmaq to return home.
The Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society, founded by the Squamish Nation Council, has an ambitious goal of providing every member of their community with affordable and culturally appropriate housing. A first project will be launched shortly, and others are already in preparation.
A study of why Indigenous residents in a Calgary non-profit represent nearly half of “negative exits” (while only 10% of tenants) shows that isolation and stereotyping contribute to a sense of alienation.
Being a housing manager is rewarding, but not for the faint-hearted. And for those working on reserve, it can be a lonely career path—something the First Nations Housing Professionals Association hopes to remedy. Since 2019, it has been working to professionalize this career path and offer its support to housing professionals across the country.
We recently sat down with Margaret Pfoh, who is Tsimshian from the Eagle Clan of the Gitga’at First Nation, to talk about her thoughts on Indigenous homelessness. Margaret joined the non-profit housing sector 25 years ago and has been the CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) for three years. She also sits on the Community Housing Transformation Centre board of directors. As we near the end of National Indigenous History Month, we wanted to share a few more of her observations with our readers in this edited transcript of our interview.
This month, the Centre’s newsletter pays tribute to National Indigenous Peoples Day, which occurs on June 21, the Summer Solstice. This year marks the 25th anniversary of its celebration in Canada. And June is also National Indigenous History Month. To mark the occasion, we would like to tip our hat to the Indigenous organizations that have entrusted us with their projects.
For Indigenous populations, the concept of homelessness is much broader than the simple lack of shelter—it encompasses the alienation inherent in three centuries of being uprooted from their cultures and communities.
When it comes to housing, Indigenous realities are often ignored or misunderstood in the western culture, even in advocacy programs like Rent Smart, which aims to train and empower tenants. The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary is reconciling the two worlds by adapting Rent Smart tenancy training to embrace Indigenous culture and values.
Sectoral Impact Projects
Develop new services, models or tools to help the sector build and manage affordable housing.
Sector Transformation Fund
Enhance the capacity of your local organization to provide affordable housing in a better way.
Community-Based Tenant Initiative
Develop projects that aim to engage tenants/co-op members in housing decisions that affect them.