Canada’s Indigenous people face “abhorrent” housing conditions

By Geraldine Grones

The United Nations (UN) has released a report highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world.

The report, presented to the UN General Assembly last week, examined the lack of access to secure housing both in cities and on reserves and its impact on the rights of Indigenous people in countries including Canada, Australia, and Tanzania.

"The Special Rapporteur finds that housing conditions for Indigenous peoples around the world are overwhelmingly abhorrent and too often violate the right to adequate housing," the report said. "[Indigenous people] are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes; as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness, and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change."

Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, said that housing shortages are severe enough in northern Canada that some people in Indigenous communities are forced to sleep in shifts.

"There [are] 15 people living in a home that's the size of a trailer, so of course they have to sleep in shifts when there's only so much room," Farha said.

One of the report’s main goals, according to Farha, was to link the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP) to the UN’s legislation on the right to adequate housing.

"The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada," Farha said. "That's really important because the UN's DRIP isn't a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is."

Farha hopes making that connection will put more pressure on the Canadian government to act on issues that predominantly affect Indigenous people. She said that Indigenous people, particularly women, should be involved in developing strategies to tackle housing shortages, according to The Canadian Press.

"I think governments around the world need to completely alter their relationship with Indigenous peoples and really recognize their self-determination and admit that there are ongoing wrongs that [need] to be addressed," Farha said.

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