New Federal housing fund for First Nations - A rather small "Trojan Horse"



    WENDAKE, QC, April 20 /CNW Telbec/ - "We know that the new Federal
housing funds for First Nations is a Trojan Horse, a small one at that, but we
cannot refuse it", said Lance Haymond, Chief of Eagle Village First Nation and
housing portfolio holder for the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador (AFNQL). "The AFNQL members' share of the new funds are desperately
needed to address the housing crisis in First Nations however, there are
strings attached", added Chief Haymond. The Federal Government is directing
the new funds exclusively to market or private housing, a concept the AFNQL
does not oppose. However, the AFNQL notes that the vast majority of First
Nations families will not be in a position to borrow money or hold mortgages
for a long time, therefore leaving a large unfilled gap of social housing
needs.
    The AFNQL has a ten year strategy and plan that calls for direct
negotiations leading to a new First Nations-controlled approach to housing. So
far, the Federal Government has been silent on the AFNQL's proposal, obliging
it instead to bargain through the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on
a limited, market-based housing approach that also appears to off-load the
Federal government's responsibility for housing onto First Nations.
    The AFNQL's data is beyond reproach and it shows a need of $1.5 billion
required to bring housing up to standards enjoyed buy mainstream Quebecers.
The AFNQL share of the $300 million should be its historical 11.4% but will
likely be only an unacceptable 7%. The result will mean more houses than usual
will be built over the coming years but that number will be nowhere near the
amount required to address the huge backlog of 10,000 new units.
    "It is difficult for the First Nations to be grateful when we only get
the appetizers while the provinces and the banks get the full course, said
Chief Haymond. The Federal Government has the surplus funds First Nations need
to bring First Nations housing up to standard but it prefers instead to give a
6% increase to transfer payments to provinces and billions to pay down the
national debt."
    The AFNQL is preparing nonetheless for eventual negotiations by
undertaking a series of Federally-funded pilot projects designed to support
those future talks and First Nations' increased management of housing.
Meanwhile, the AFNQL will continue to work with the AFN and First Nations from
other regions to develop fair terms for access to the new funds.

    The AFNQL's other concerns with today's announcement are:

    
        - The government to government relationship between the Federal
          Government and the First Nations wherein these matters are
          discussed fully and in advance with the AFNQL and/or its members
          was not respected by the Federal Government.

        - The AFNQL was not consulted and had no opportunity for input into
          the Board of Trustees announced today.

        - The AFNQL had no input into the decision to make the CMHC the
          interim manager of the fund.

        - The AFNQL as Quebec and Labrador's only representative to the AFN
          was not consulted by the AFN in its decision to make what appears
          to be a joint announcement with the Federal Government.

        - Despite the Federal Government's claims to the contrary, the AFNQL
          is also wary that the new fund may force First Nations into private
          land holdings, a land tenure system that may jeopardize the
          integrity of some First Nations.
    

    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization representing the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador.




For further information:

For further information: Chief Lance Haymond, Eagle Village First
Nation,(819) 627-3455, Cellular: (819) 627-6037


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