Idle No More co-founder launches First Nations housing campaign

Members of the advocacy group known as Idle No More have launched an initiative aimed at improving housing on First Nations reserves.

Fundraising aimed at fixing reserve homes

The group Idle No More has launched a campaign aimed at improving housing on reserves. This picture was taken by group co-founder Sylvia McAdam who was moved to take action based on what she saw visiting her home reserve. (Submitted by Sylvia McAdam)

Members of the advocacy group known as Idle No More have launched an initiative aimed at improving housing on First Nations reserves.

The campaign — called One House, Many Nations — was announced Wednesday. It aims to provide assistance to people living in desperate housing conditions.

I  was horrified to see the condition of many of the houses.- Sylvia McAdam

Sylvia McAdam, one of the co-founders of Idle No More, said she was moved to address the issue after seeing some of the housing on her home community, the Big River First Nation, which about 120 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert.

"You don't realize what is in your own backyard until you go door-to-door and actually go visit the people in their own homes," McAdam said.

Sylvia McAdam, one of the Saskatchewan-based founders of the Idle No More movement. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

"It is shameful that we're having to reach out [with an aid campaign] when we're living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world," she added.

The housing initiative is seeking donations using a fundraising site called Indiegogo. With every $15,000 raised a sustainable home can be built, according to the campaign. The site collects funds in U.S. dollars.

McAdam explained that she saw many homes in need of repair when she ran for chief of the reserve.

"I was horrified to see the condition of many of the houses and when the campaign ended and I didn't get elected, I had promised that I would at least meet some of the housing emergency [need for] repair or — if we raise enough — a house or a shelter for some of the families," she said.

McAdam said it was clear to her that many homes had not had any repairs done over the course of several years and, in some cases, decades.

"There were doors that needed replacing, windows that had been broken that needed to be replaced, walls that are broken," she said. "And there's an incredible amount of mould issues [and] some plumbing issues."

McAdam noted that First Nations treaties included promises related to housing.

Sylvia McAdam says she encountered many examples of poor housing while she was campaigning for chief of her home reserve. (Submitted by Sylvia McAdam)

"This is a treaty term — and promise for indigenous people — that shelter is one of the promises," she said. "It's a fundamental and foundational human rights issue. When you address shelter and housing, you address so many things. We're talking about mental health, the well-being of families and stability of families."

She added that federal politicians should address the issue as well.

"I'm calling out the colonial government — the settler government — to begin addressing the issue of homes, homelessness, and the treaty terms and promises to shelter," she said. "Those are the kind of things that need to be talked about because having a home is a fundamental human right."

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