Indigenous people more likely to have housing problems as population grows: StatCan


Angela Klassen Janeczko called a young woman sitting behind a building in downtown Winnipeg to see if she needed water or food.

They know each other by name, and Janeczko has witnessed a young indigenous woman struggling with housing and addiction for more than five years.

Janeczko works with Bear Clan Patrol, a neighborhood watch group in Winnipeg that travels the streets and alleys to help those most in need. She said they have seen rooming houses and apartment buildings become derelict. At the same time, rents are rising and homes nearby are selling for record prices.

This is disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples in the vicinity, she said, and many end up living in tents behind buildings, along riverbanks or in small community parks. . The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, she added.

“Treat people with humanity and respect,” says Janeczko, as she gives some food to someone else nearby.

Statistics Canada’s latest 2021 Census data shows that the Indigenous population is still growing, although the pace has slowed and is much younger than the rest of Canada. However, the data says, they are also struggling with housing problems in an already thin system.

The Census says there are 1.8 million Indigenous people in Canada, which is 5% of the total population. The Indigenous population grew 9.4% from 2016 to 2021, nearly double the rate of the non-Indigenous population.

Although the number of indigenous people with inadequate housing has decreased, it is still much higher than the number of non-indigenous people.

Nearly one in six Indigenous people live in a home in need of major repairs by 2021, a proportion nearly three times higher than the non-Indigenous population, and more than 17% of Indigenous people live in crowded homes. casting.

Statistics Canada said that because of the difficulty of collecting census data on First Nations and other Indigenous communities, caution should be exercised when comparing census years. The agency said it has made adjustments to track overall trends.

Wednesday’s census announcement comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government makes Indigenous housing a priority. It is also part of an agreement between the Liberal minority government and the New Democrats.

The 2022 federal budget commits $4.3 billion over seven years to help improve Indigenous housing, a number the Council of First Nations says is far short of what is needed . The National Advocacy Foundation has asked for $44 billion to address overcrowding and homes in dire need of repairs based on stock.

Michael Yellow Bird, dean of the University of Manitoba’s department of social work, said it was a by-product of colonization. Forced resettlement, loss of sovereignty and decades of capital shortages have contributed to poverty and poor housing for indigenous people. Injuries and displacement caused by residential schools are also a factor, he added.

Bird explains that reserve housing doesn’t work the same way as other places, and it can be a complicated administrative process for First Nations to work with Ottawa to resolve longstanding problems.

Bird says the effects of unstable and overcrowded housing construction and out of reserve can be the same. Being poor is linked to major health problems, mental health problems, poor educational outcomes and higher rates of suicide, he said.

“All of these things are very interconnected,” says Bird. “It’s the demographics of these things that we know, that these important factors are causing a number of different types of disturbances in the community.”

The Liberals have promised to develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy and have budgeted $300 million over five years so the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation can do it. Work with indigenous communities to develop plans.

Affordability has become an issue in many Canadian real estate markets, but Indigenous people are more likely to live in a lower income situation than their non-native counterparts.

The Census shows that 18.8% of Indigenous people live in a low-income household. The rates are highest among First Nations people, especially those living in protected areas.

Nearly a quarter of Indigenous children aged 14 and under live in a low-income household, more than double the percentage of non-indigenous children.

Research shows that indigenous people are also disproportionately homeless.

Janeczko was walking through an alley with some volunteers when the call to “sharpen” rang every time they found a needle. The group picked up more than 325 needles in a few hours during a recent patrol. Not everyone without a home is addicted, says Janeczko, but it could be one way those community members cope.

Winnipeg has the largest indigenous population of any major city in Canada and it continues to grow. Janeczko said all levels of government were committed to researching the housing issue, but those most affected need help now.

A sign on a nearby garage says one person is allowed to live there. The young man inside thanked Bear Clan volunteers for food and water as they checked on him. Inside the garage is a makeshift living area with a couch covered in blankets, a table and some personal items.

Janeczko explains that the garage property used to be a home for about 20 people. When the owner died, it was abandoned, she said.

Demand for housing in the neighborhood is huge, so the loss of affordable rental space puts many people at risk of having to live on the streets, she said.

“The need for housing is here,” she said.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on September 21, 2022.

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