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WENDAKE, QC, April 20 – “We know that the new Federal housing funds for First Nations is a Trojan Horse, a small one at that, but we cannot refuse it”, said Lance Haymond, Chief of Eagle Village First Nation and housing portfolio holder for the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL). “The AFNQL members’ share of the new funds are desperately needed to address the housing crisis in First Nations however, there are strings attached”, added Chief Haymond. The Federal Government is directing the new funds exclusively to market or private housing, a concept the AFNQL does not oppose. However, the AFNQL notes that the vast majority of First Nations families will not be in a position to borrow money or hold mortgages for a long time, therefore leaving a large unfilled gap of social housing needs. The AFNQL has a ten year strategy and plan that calls for direct negotiations leading to a new First Nations-controlled approach to housing. So far, the Federal Government has been silent on the AFNQL’s proposal, obliging it instead to bargain through the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on a limited, market-based housing approach that also appears to off-load the Federal government’s responsibility for housing onto First Nations.
The AFNQL’s data is beyond reproach and it shows a need of $1.5 billion required to bring housing up to standards enjoyed buy mainstream Quebecers. The AFNQL share of the $300 million should be its historical 11.4% but will likely be only an unacceptable 7%. The result will mean more houses than usual will be built over the coming years but that number will be nowhere near the amount required to address the huge backlog of 10,000 new units.
“It is difficult for the First Nations to be grateful when we only get the appetizers while the provinces and the banks get the full course, said Chief Haymond. The Federal Government has the surplus funds First Nations need to bring First Nations housing up to standard but it prefers instead to give a 6% increase to transfer payments to provinces and billions to pay down the national debt.”
The AFNQL is preparing nonetheless for eventual negotiations by undertaking a series of Federally-funded pilot projects designed to support those future talks and First Nations’ increased management of housing. Meanwhile, the AFNQL will continue to work with the AFN and First Nations from other regions to develop fair terms for access to the new funds.
The AFNQL’s other concerns with today’s announcement are:
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional organization representing the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
For further information: Chief Lance Haymond, Eagle Village First Nation,(819) 627-3455, Cellular: (819) 627-6037
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