Thursday, October 18

Homelessness on the home front - UN investigates Canadian housing

Miloon Kothari, the United Nation's special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, arrived in Montreal last Oct. 9 to embark on an 11-day official fact-finding mission to assess how well Canada fares with regards to housing and caring for the nation's most vulnerable. Kothari has selected four specific themes for his special cross-country mission: women and housing; aboriginal people and housing; homelessness; and the social impact of the Vancouver Olympics.

Kothari's Quebec visit consisted of touring various homeless shelters, including the Old Brewery Mission, and a special trip to Kahnawake to meet with Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, along with three other chiefs representing the Atikamek, Innu and Algonquin communities.

Says Picard, the demand for housing varies from one community to the next. "Just about any community has a waiting list of people wanting to build on reserves, but the demand is far too great for councils to meet it. We probably would need to build 7,500 homes tomorrow in order to be comparable to the rates that overall Quebec residents enjoy as a province, which is a ratio of about two people per home. For the aboriginal communities, it's more like four or five per home."

According to Picard, on-reserve housing is a federal issue, and while the federal government just earmarked $300-million for aboriginal housing this past spring, the housing in question is "market housing" and geared at those who can afford to buy homes. Says Picard, "At least 75 to 80 per cent of our people depend very much on social assistance, so they can't afford those types of homes. It's strictly for market housing as opposed to social housing."

Kothari will be presenting his findings in Ottawa on Oct. 22 after touring Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and various native reserves across Canada.

LINK: The Hour

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