However, long way to go to address poverty, Beaucage
NIPISSING FIRST NATION (March 19, 2007) – First Nations in Ontario are encouraged by the direction of the Conservative Government in the areas of on-reserve market housing, improving employment opportunities and addressing First Nations specific claims.
However, the government has a long way to go to seriously address issues such as First Nations poverty and the substantial ‘housing deficit’.
“We were hopeful that we’d see something that resembles the Conservative’s assurance that they’d meet the objectives of Kelowna,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “However, the government’s budget takes us a step in the right direction by investing in market housing initiatives. We are committed to developing a true housing market for First Nations on-reserve.”
Grand Council Chief Beaucage, who holds the Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) national portfolio for housing, has been advocating for investments to marketing housing including the establishment of a First Nations Investment Trust in encourage further public-private housing investment.
Budget 2007 commits to work in consultation with First Nations to develop approaches to support the development of individual property ownership on reserve and encourage lending for private housing. The budget announced that $300 million will be dedicated to this approach.
“However, social housing shouldn’t take a back seat to establishing a market housing,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “The majority of our communities cannot afford market housing.”
According to estimates from the Assembly of First Nations, First Nations continue to be short over 80,000 units nationwide. That number does not count units that may need substantial renovations or even replacement. Many First Nations people live in overcrowded, unhealthy and unsafe housing conditions.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage is advocating investment to First Nations governments, rather than funding to government programs, to address the housing deficit and eradicating poverty.
“We need to devote more resources to First Nations communities through our own governments rather than being caught up in administration and government bureaucracy,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “The government needs to invest in First Nations government in much the same way they deal with funding to the Provinces – through transfer payments and revenue sharing.”
However, according to the Union of Ontario Indians, the 2007 budget will do little to address the fact that 1 in 4 First Nations children live in poverty, and the fact that the average annual income in the Anishinabek Nation is $17,211 for men and $14,232 for women. Further, the unemployment rate for Anishinabek Nation communities is 24.4 per cent.
“The government must do more to prioritize First Nations issues, especially the goal of eliminating First Nations poverty,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “Our people cannot have private home ownership if we can’t afford the mortgage.”
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42-member First Nations across Ontario . The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.