Company offers new home for First Nations family after video shows 'horrifying' conditions
Couple with 8 children live in rat-infested home on Sandy Bay First Nation
A central Manitoba family living with leaking sewage, rodents and mould in their home will soon have a brand-new house thanks to an Ontario construction company.
Darryl Williams, a senior partner with Total Construction Management based in Campbellford, Ont., said the company can deliver a new four-bedroom house to Melinda McIvor, her partner and eight children by Christmas.
A recent video shot by McIvor's cousin, Clint McIvor, showed the trailer's foundation collapsing, raw sewage backed up under the floorboards and pieces of insulation blackened with mould dangling below the building.
To make matters worse, Clint McIvor says, the home is also infested with rats. The footage of the trailer was one of the most viewed videos on the CBC News website this week.
Living conditions in McIvor's trailer were "horrifying" to Williams, who happened to be in Winnipeg this week for an Assembly of First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Forum.
"This is tragic. They need desperate help right away."
Soon after seeing the video, Williams began making plans to transport a new home to land next door to McIvor's current three-bedroom house trailer on Sandy Bay First Nation in central Manitoba.
"I'm happy," said Melinda McIvor after hearing the news. "It's rotten. It's no good to live here."
McIvor added it is a relief to know she will have a new house soon because she was worried about winter and how cold it would be in her home for her partner and eight children.
'It has to stop,' says minister
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the poor living conditions affecting McIvor's family are unfortunately not unique.
"I've seen situations like this in so many parts of Canada," said Bennett, shaking her head. "It has to stop … this is no way to live."
Bennett said the federal government has to do as much as it can, as fast as it can, to improve housing on First Nations.
"We are committed to changing this," the minister said. "It is so sad but fixable."
Bennett, who is also a family doctor, said the poor housing situation can be linked to physical and mental health on reserves.
"Basic decent housing is essential to health — whether it's TB rates or suicide rates or H1N1, whether it's kids doing their homework. This is going to be essential."
Other homes in disrepair
Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Lance Roulette said there are about 15 other trailers in the community in the same state of disrepair as McIvor's residence.
"It gives a glimpse of the reality our First Nations people are living in and the housing crisis that we face."
Minister Bennett said the federal government has allotted $485,000 in 2016 for four new houses for Sandy Bay First Nation. Ottawa will also pay for 10 additional housing units and provide Sandy Bay with $1.8 million for repairs to existing homes.
Roulette said 15 new houses are planned for next year, not including the house paid for by Total Construction Management.
NDP critic for Indigenous and northern affairs Charlie Angus calls the investment a drop in the bucket. Federal money for First Nation housing will translate to about 300 new homes, said Angus, when there are thousands more in need of replacing.
"The backlog is immense," Angus said. "We're talking minuscule steps when really need to be moving yards and we need to be moving miles."
With files from Karen Pauls