The Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC) is mandated to work with First Nation housing departments to develop capacity and policies to assist First Nations with the delivery of housing services for on-reserve residents. OFNTSC’s Housing Service also delivers training workshops to assist in capacity building for First Nations. The following report looks into Ontario First Nations housing needs, the historical and contemporary federal on reserve housing policies, contemporary regional approaches to on reserve housing, and outlines next steps for OFNTSC to better deliver on reserve housing solutions.
First Nations are widely known to be the fastest growing demographic in Canada; however, the current demand for housing on reserve is not being met, and backlogs continue to grow. It has been estimated that $30 billion is needed to close the gap in repairs and upgrades to homes and related infrastructure. Findings from the OFNTSC First Nation Housing and Infrastructure Gap Assessment 2010-2011, estimated that by 2029, a total of $8.7 billion will be needed to address community infrastructure needs and that $2.2 billion will be needed for housing needs alone. These figures are different, demonstrating that there is no definitive figure that exists at present to truly capture Ontario First Nations housing needs. Furthermore, housing “need” is not homogenous and rather is defined differently by different people. Further investigation will be required to not only update the data but also ensure greater scope of primary and secondary research through First Nation Community and Tribal Council information.
To meaningfully and appropriately determine the overall housing needs for Ontario First Nations, needs and solutions must be looked at holistically (linking to physical and mental health, operations and maintenance, water and wastewater etc.). OFNTSC is committed to improving the quality and accuracy of Ontario on reserve housing and infrastructure data and the following report lays the foundation for OFNTSC’s ongoing efforts to build on existing data sources in order to dig deeper into the state of housing needs in Ontario. In light of Canada’s National Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy, an opportunity exists for OFNTSC to advocate for Ontario First Nations in order to assist in the development and delivery of on reserve community-driven housing solutions.
While the federal government has not lived up to their treaty obligations, their fiduciary obligation to First Nations, and their commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the development of the National Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy presents a welcomed opportunity to move forward with transformative change in on reserve housing. Innovative, culturally-appropriate solutions will be required, and indeed, exist in many First Nations communities at present. These solutions must be designed, constructed, and delivered by Indigenous communities and organizations consistent with the UN Declaration.