Aboriginal leaders and provincial and territorial politicians discussed ways to ensure affordable, quality housing for Canada's aboriginal peoples today in Winnipeg.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders met with aboriginal affairs ministers across Canada on Tuesday for a meeting of the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group.
Aboriginal housing falls under the federal government's jurisdiction, but provincial and territorial aboriginal affairs ministers say they will keep pressing for more funding.
"Sooner or later we will get an increased commitment from the federal government because so many other problems stem from poor housing, whether it's school success, whether it's extra demands on our social services," said Geoffrey Kelley, Quebec's minister of native affairs.
Delegates also talked about economic development, education, emergency management, and ending violence against aboriginal women and girls.
The meeting came one day after the United Nations' special envoy on the rights of indigenous people issued his report on Canada's treatment of its aboriginal peoples.
James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous rights, said Canada has made notable efforts to improve the social and economic well-being of aboriginal people, but more work is required.
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Eric Robinson, Manitoba's aboriginal affairs minister, said his province will push for more housing money, but it's also engaging in housing retrofitting projects in some First Nations communities.
"I believe that there's at least 1,000 homes that are targeted to be retrofitted for running water," Robinson said.
"We have to face reality, and that is that many First Nations communities in this country are living in Third World conditions," he added.
Student struggled to find housing
Finding a place to live has made a difference for Les Tom, who moved from the Naotkamegwanning First Nation in 2011 to study geography and indigenous studies at the University of Winnipeg.
"I had to struggle to find a place to live, especially with the growing population in the city," he said.
"Everybody's trying to find a place to live, so it was like a competition."
Tom did find an apartment just before the school year started, but he said more than 20 of his friends were not so lucky.
"Friends from school or other places had come in [and] they say, 'Oh, I need a place to stay just for a couple days … or a week, just so I can get on my own two feet,'" he said.
Tom said having more affordable housing in urban centres would go a long way to helping students like him focus on their education.