Manitoba First Nation highlights housing crisis

A First Nation housing crisis in Attawapiskat, Ont., is making national headlines, but people on at least one Manitoba reserve say they're living in similarly poor conditions.

Manitoba First Nation's deteriorating homes

11 years ago
Duration 1:31
Many on the Sandy Bay First Nation, northwest of Winnipeg, are living in run-down homes, some of which are infested with cockroaches and mould.

A housing crisis in the Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat is making national headlines, but people on at least one Manitoba reserve say they are living in similarly poor conditions.

The emergency housing crisis was declared in Attawapiskat, a James Bay Cree community of about 1,800, nearly a month ago. The Red Cross arrived in there on Tuesday to aid some families living in tents as temperatures plummeted to –20 C.

But some members of the Sandy Bay First Nation, located 180 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, say they are living in run-down homes, some of which have mould and insect problems.

About 3,200 people live on the Sandy Bay First Nation. Three hundred families in the community are on a waiting list for new housing, including Willard Beaulieu and his family.

Cockroaches, black mould in home

Beaulieu's house, which he shares with his girlfriend and parents, has a sinking floor, black mould in the bedroom, and a pizza box that is being used to patch drywall.

But it's the clusters of cockroaches that makes one's skin crawl.

"We've got no place else to live except here," Mary-Rose Beaulieu, Willard's mother, told CBC News on Thursday.

Willard Beaulieu said he hopes the band will provide his family with a new house this spring. Otherwise, he said they will "try and do our best to kill those bugs and try to make the best of it."

The federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Department provides the community with $1.8 million annually for roads, housing and other infrastructure.

Another Sandy Bay resident, Russell Beaulieu, said he has started replacing his own windows and doors because his family is tired of waiting for the band to come through with a new home.

Beaulieu, who is expecting his first child next year, said his home also has mould, a sinking floor and obvious damage to the siding.

"I don't want to bring a baby home to that," he said.

Shortage of 17,000 homes

According to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, there is a shortage of more than 17,000 homes on the province's reserves.

Thousands more on-reserve homes need to be replaced because of mould and other problems, according to assembly officials.

The Garden Hill First Nation, for example, has overcrowded homes without running water.

Aboriginal Affairs officials say Manitoba's 63 First Nations are given about $50 million a year to pay for housing and other infrastructure in their communities.

But the assembly estimates that at least $60 million a year would be required just to provide the housing needed to keep up with population growth.