UN report highlights ‘abhorrent’ housing conditions for Indigenous people

Rapporteur says some Indigenous people in Canada’s North sleep in shifts due to housing shortages

United Nations human rights experts Leilani Farha (left) and Catarina de Albuquerque listen to questions during a news conference in Detroit, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. A United Nations report is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paul Sancya)

A United Nations report is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world.

The report, presented to the UN General Assembly on Friday, examines the lack of access to secure housing both in cities and on reserves and its effect on the rights of Indigenous people in countries including Canada, Australia and Tanzania.

“The Special Rapporteur finds that housing conditions for Indigenous peoples around the world are overwhelmingly abhorrent and too often violate the right to adequate housing,” the report reads.

“(Indigenous people) are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change.”

Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, noted that housing shortages are severe enough in Canada’s North that some people in Indigenous communities are forced to sleep in shifts.

“There’s 15 people living in a home that’s the size of a trailer, so of course they have to sleep in shifts when there’s only so much room,” she said.

READ MORE: Indigenous housing discussion gains momentum

The report also highlights poor water systems on many Canadian reserves.

“In a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 per cent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water, with communities such as Attawapiskat declaring a state of emergency,” it reads.

The report also says Indigenous people in Canada and around the world who live in urban areas deal with racism from landlords, presenting another hurdle to accessing housing.

The report linked a lack of housing as a factor that exacerbates Canada’s ongoing problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Lacking secure, adequate housing, Indigenous women often become the targets of further violence because of their gender and their Indigenous identity,” it says.

Farha said one of the main goals of the report was to link the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP) to the UN’s legislation on the right to adequate housing.

“The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada,” said Farha. “That’s really important because the UN’s DRIP isn’t a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is.”

She said she hopes making that connection will put more pressure on the Canadian government to act on issues that predominantly affect Aboriginal people.

Farha said Indigenous people — and particularly Indigenous women — should be involved in the development of strategies to tackle housing shortages.

“I think governments around the world need to completely alter their relationship with Indigenous peoples and really recognize their self-determination and admit that there are ongoing wrongs that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

READ MORE: B.C. pledges $550 million for Indigenous housing

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langford Legion hesitantly re-opens with new hours

President says doors open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.

Playgrounds reopen in Sooke

The move comes two months after facilities were shut down during the height of COVID-19 pandemic

Sooke food security initiative grows local interest

Around 30 grow-at-home kits handed out to Sooke residents

Sooke Food Bank takes steps towards ‘new norm’

Need for Sooke Food Bank nearly doubles since beginning of pandemic

Accessibility for disabled still an issue in Sooke

Room for improvement, says councillor

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Vancouver Island grizzlies: moving in, or just passing through?

Lack of data makes seeming increase in grizzly sightings on the North Island an open question

COVID-19 birthday drive-by celebrations snuffed out in Island community

Bylaw officer visit with threats of a fine mean parade trucks taken off the road

Vancouver Island Regional Libraries to offer ‘takeout’ style services

VIRL will offer the service on a branch-by-branch basis

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Duncan’s Queen Margaret’s School pioneers thermal imaging in school reopening

Private school is first in B.C. to use new tech post-COVID-19

Most Read