MPs recommend that state housing funds go directly to NWT indigenous governments and communities

A parliamentary committee recommends that the federal government directly fund indigenous governments and communities in the NWT for housing programs.

The current system includes federal funds that go to the territory-run Housing NWT Corporation, which has programs through which Indigenous governments, organizations, or communities can apply.

But the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs wrote in a report that this is handicapping many groups, including the NWT Métis Nation.

“The committee has heard that the Northwest Territory Métis Nation does not receive core funding to provide housing programs and services to its members,” the report said.

The report recommends that the federal government work directly with Métis governments “that are not recognized under the distinctions-based model and provide long-term, stable, flexible and predictable funding for Métis housing.”

NWT Métis Nation President Garry Bailey said he was happy with the recommendations and felt changes to the NWT housing funds would benefit all parties.

NWT Métis Nation President Garry Bailey said the current system limits the amount of funds his people can receive.

“I am very pleased that they recognize that Aboriginal people should look after themselves, especially when it comes to housing and housing needs… because we know what those needs are and politics will not get in the way,” he said.

Bailey said the impact of inadequate housing has lasting repercussions on communities and changes to the current system could benefit all parties.

“Because they paid and it’s not a money machine when it comes to housing,” he said.

“So, I think it will definitely take some of the pressure off of the territorial government as well.”

Another recommendation was that the federal government “recognize the Métis settlements as distinct entities with unique infrastructure and housing needs and that the government’s commitment to the Métis settlements reflects this recognition”.

Access to reserve funding

The report also found problems in how the NWT’s two First Nation reservations — K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Salt River First Nation — receive funding for housing initiatives.

As a result of the current system, none of the Reserves have access to federal funding for reserve housing, instead relying on the territorial government to apply for funding before First Nations can apply again.

K’atl’odeeche First Nation April Martel said she feels Indigenous communities should always be able to access federal government housing funds directly. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

April Martel is the chief of the K’atl’odeeche First Nation.

She said she has worked for years to ensure that her community has direct access to federal government funding.

“As a reserve, the money should go straight into the reserve,” she said.

Martel said she understands why the territorial government should be responsible for funding smaller communities that don’t have the resources to create housing.

But for others, like K’atl’odeeche, they have the resources and understanding of what the community needs.

Martel said the housing shortage in the Southern Slave community was already devastating but had gotten worse after the spring floods.

Martel said she has been in discussions with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada about establishing direct funding with the federal government.

As a result of its findings, the committee recommends that the federal government review all programs to identify areas where funding could be delivered directly to Indigenous governments, organizations and communities.

“The Committee recognizes that direct funding of housing for Indigenous communities or organizations is critical support for Indigenous-led housing initiatives and is a fundamental principle of self-determination,” the report said.

After the review, the committee expects feedback from the federal government by February 2023.

The federal government is not legally obliged to follow the recommendations.

NWT Housing did not make the housing minister available for an interview as of the time of publication.

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