Chief disgusted but not surprised by housing figures
Documents that show Manitoba is one of the worst places for First Nations people to live don’t come as a surprise to Chief David McDougall from the remote St. Theresa Point First Nation in the northern part of the province.
McDougall listens in amazement to radio ads appealing for help for African children who live in dilapidated homes with no running water. He shakes his head reading Canadian studies on the psychological effect of the lack of adequate housing on refugee children in the Middle East.
“How come they don’t come and study the situation as is in First Nations? I know the answer to that,” he said. “They’re turning a blind eye.”
The government’s regional updates estimate McDougall’s community needed 379 new homes in 2010 and project that will grow to 949 by 2020. It’s not uncommon to have up to 18 people sharing a three- bedroom bungalow on the reserve, McDougall said.
The government response, flagged as “behind plan” in several updates, was to direct a steering committee to create a “sub- committee to address housing backlog.”
In the meantime, McDougall said, his community and three other area reserves with a combined need for just over 1,000 homes got 12 new houses this year.
“I wouldn’t even call it a drop in the bucket.”
Despair grows among young aboriginals on the fly- in reserve as they see luxuries on satellite television they can only dream of, McDougall said.
No one is expecting a blank cheque, he added, just some sign of interest on the part of Ottawa to work with reserves to improve the situation.
“We’re trying to contribute to our own wellbeing. We’re not just sitting here twiddling our thumbs. They’re not really working with us.”