Natives more likely to be in poor housing, but signs of progress: Census | Pro IQRA News

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Indigenous people in Canada are more likely to have poor housing conditions, information released Wednesday by Statistics Canada shows, despite an overall decline in the percentage of Indigenous people living in homes that require major repairs or crowded homes.

The numbers mark an increase in recent years but still suggest work is ahead, said Nelson Barbosa of Indigenous Services Canada.

“I think it’s encouraging that there has been progress since the previous census,” said Barbosa, senior director at the department’s Directorate of Housing and Infrastructure Services Reform. “It shows that breakthroughs are being made, but by no means means that housing solutions in First Nations communities are completely fixed.”

The data was released as part of the latest 2021 census data on housing. The figures investigate the housing conditions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.

About 17.1 percent of the indigenous population live in congested homes, according to census data, and 16.4 percent are in homes that require major repairs. In comparison, 9.4 percent of non-indigenous people live in dense housing.

Crowded housing is categorized by the house’s lack of bedrooms, of one, two, or three or more.

Data shows the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people living in congested houses narrowed by 1.7 percentage points from the previous census in 2016. Those living in homes in need of major repairs fell by 2.7 percentage points.

For First Nations people, multi-generational homes are most common for those in dense housing, while for Métis and Inuits it is couples with children.

Across Canada, home to 1.8 million indigenous people, figures vary widely. Data focusing on First Nations people show Newfoundland and Labrador see only five percent of First Nations residents in congested housing with nine percent in such housing in need of repair. In general Atlantic Canada has the lowest numbers in the country.

But the story changes drastically on the prairie.

Manitoba has 36 percent of First Nations residents living in congested housing, with 29 percent in housing requiring serious repairs. Next door, in Saskatchewan, the figures are 34 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

The gap between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada suggests there are different needs in every community, Barbosa said.

He said the federal government had increased funding of housing initiatives for indigenous peoples in recent years.

“There is a significant investment made in the interim period from census to census,” said Barbosa.

The federal government as a whole has spent $6.8 billion on Indigenous housing over the past six years, he said. Most of the money coming from Indigenous Services Canada, about $150 million a year, flows directly through First Nations as reserves, he said.

Canada’s 2022 budget commits $2.4 billion to reserve housing over five years.

Barbosa said financial commitments were not only extended, but also increased for Métis, Inuit and First Nations.

“Progress is part money and progress is also partnership,” he said. “I would see it as a balancing act, although there are ways to bridge the gap.”

The Saskatchewan government says it has more than 50 active agreements with more than 20 Métis organizations for 700 housing units in the province.

Saskatchewan is also working to increase non-reserve housing options for indigenous peoples with an investment of $70 million, according to the Ministry of Social Services.

The Manitoba finance department said it had no data for indigenous people living outside reserves in the province.

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