Chief dis­gusted but not sur­prised by hous­ing fig­ures

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - WINNIPEG -

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.”

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