Man posts video of rat-infested home on Sandy Bay First Nation to get PM Trudeau's attention
Central Manitoba family of 10 has been living in home with sewage backups for years
A man has posted his video on YouTube showing a rat-infested home, that has no heat and has been ravaged by sewage backups, on Sandy Bay First Nation in central Manitoba in hopes of getting the attention of federal politicians and a new home for his cousin.
Melinda McIvor has been living in the three-bedroom house trailer for 21 years with her partner. They have eight children ranging in age from one to 21, and another on the way.
"I'm sick of the smell," Melinda McIvor said of the sewage odour. "I'm going to have a newborn soon."
McIvor said her family has been living with sewage problems for years and she often gets headaches from the smell of feces.
"It stinks all day. I don't like it. The water keeps coming from underneath the trailer," she said. "The plumbers are scared to go under it."
Her cousin, Clint McIvor, recorded the trailer inside and out at the beginning of October and posted the video online. It shows insulation hanging out of rotting boards, mould in the bathroom, and damaged floors and walls.
Another cousin, Gerald McIvor, emailed the video to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett to raise awareness about the poor living conditions plaguing First Nations communities.
Clint McIvor said he is so frustrated that he started a GoFundMe page to raise money to build the family a six-bedroom home in the community, located on the western shore of Lake Manitoba.
'People shouldn't be living like this'
"I went to many places and that was the worst house I've seen; that's why I videotaped it," Clint said.
"People shouldn't be living like this."
McIvor said he's also worried because the house has no heat and winter is fast approaching.
"I just went and bought them plywood to fix the holes temporarily," he said.
He said that since posting the video, including on Facebook, people have been sending him messages of support.
"People are sending me their pictures now; they want me to get this on the news."
Most of the homes on Sandy Bay First Nation are owned by the band council. But according to Chief Lance Roulette, maintaining them is a shared responsibility between band members and homeowners.
"It's a combination of the two. Anything in relation to mechanical should be handled by the essential services department within Sandy Bay to try and address any safety and health concerns," said Roulette.
"But any basic maintenance such as upkeeping the home is usually left to the tenant's responsibility."
Plans underway, chief says
Roulette said the trailer home is overcrowded and he believes the increase in water usage poses a problem for the septic system.
"The septic tanks just don't have the capacity to keep up with the water usage in the house."
Roulette said he's aware of the issues raised by members of the McIvor family, and said efforts are being made by the band to move them into a new home as soon as possible.
"We are beginning to build a four-plex side-by-side duplex on the reserve. It will be four units with four bedrooms. One of the recommendations is to have the family move into there," Roulette said.
But the chief said the family has indicated it would prefer a stand-alone unit instead of a duplex, something that isn't easy when you have a housing shortage.
"We do have a number of dilapidated houses," he said.
On Thursday, Gerald McIvor announced on Facebook that a company is offering to donate a new house to the family.
Roulette said the community has long been dealing with a shortage of decent housing, but said plans are underway to create 10 more housing units this year and 20 by next year.
Bennett spoke about the deplorable housing conditions she has seen on First Nations communities, when she attended a national housing conference in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
She told the conference that the government is working on better ways to address the housing crisis, including looking into longer lasting building materials and new ways of housing extended families.
"Let's listen to the communities as to the kind of housing they need," she said.
"You know, as Mike Holmes says, we have to stop building crap, and that's what we're going to do," Bennett said, referring to the home improvement expert known for highlighting bad renovations.
While speaking to reporters after her speech, Bennett was asked if she had seen the video of the deplorable conditions the McIvor family is facing. She didn't answer the question, but called the issues unacceptable.
"These are Third World conditions and we need to get this fixed."