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

PHOTOS: The day 28,000 Lollapalooza-goers rocked Cloverdale in 1994

Fans share memories of drugs, bad Smashing Pumpkins, Nick Cave walk-off and ‘letdown’ of Surrey date

Surrey veteran feels pinch from COVID-19 after cancelled surgery

Caught between two countries, and low income, soldier feels he’s been forgotten

Surrey parents, students navigate remote learning during COVID-19

The Surrey school district teachers are slowly rolling out plans for new way of educating

Two people fined for trying to re-sell N95 and surgical masks in Delta

Police confiscated over 5,000 masks and are working with Fraser Health to see them put to good use

Peace Arch News ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Vancouver man, 21, charged after mother found dead in Squamish home

Ryan Grantham, 21, has been charged with second-degree murder

Fraser Valley’s tulips fields off limits to visitors due to COVID-19

Abbotsford and Chilliwack tulip farmers have announced their festival season won’t go ahead

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Most Read