Housing a priority

Housing a priority Liard First Nation chief and council has made the provision of quality affordable housing a top priority. It is for this reason that the First Nation has used the majority of funding from the Northern Housing Trust to build several ne

Liard First Nation chief and council has made the provision of quality affordable housing a top priority.

It is for this reason that the First Nation has used the majority of funding from the Northern Housing Trust to build several new homes and renovate many others.

We have the deepest respect for elders and want the best for those who pass on their wisdom and traditions to us.

We were surprised at some of the public comments from the elder as she has a new home prepped for construction already.

We have been working with her on that project since April, and hope to make it another success.

With regard to the other elder referred to in the story, the First Nation built a new, two-bedroom home for her two years ago, but she declined to move in as she wanted home features that were not available.

We will continue to work with her family on acceptable alternatives. We appreciate the feedback, and our doors are always open to citizens to discuss these important matters.

Our elders have said no to signing a land-claim settlement. Because of this, governments have cut back on our resources, and we have not had the major financial compensation that settled First Nations have seen.

We respect the elders’ direction and have looked to new ways to develop revenues to meet the many needs of our citizens for the long term.

At the recent mining and pipeline conference we held in Watson Lake, we discussed how important it is that the First Nation look at getting into business and to at least gain benefits when our lands and resources are exploited by development.

The Liard First Nation’s Community Development Corporation made a strategic investment in hotel properties in Watson Lake in part to capture well-located serviced lands for future housing use.

The real-estate blocks adjacent to the old Watson Lake Hotel property lend themselves well for development into affordable housing.

The two operating hotel properties offer a revenue stream that will help subsidize future housing program needs for our citizens.

The vast majority of the operating hotels were funded by a mortgage attached to them, and not through the Northern Housing Trust.

Unfortunately, development of the housing options at the blocks near the old Watson Lake Hotel site have taken longer to materialize than we hoped, in large part due to the unexpected economic recession that hit the world shortly after we purchased the assets.

We must look to every opportunity to not only meet our citizens’ needs, but to become economically self-sufficient in the process. The strategic investment we have made in acquiring commercial hotels and real-estate properties for future housing will allow us to address some immediate and future housing needs as well as allow us to begin developing a revenue stream, through hard entrepreneurial work, to help pay future housing bills.

These initiatives, directed at meeting the needs of our citizens, are well known to First Nation members and were thoroughly disclosed and discussed at the summer 2009 Liard First Nation General Assembly. We have and will continue to share information about the progress we are making with our citizens and with government agencies that provide assistance.

Chief Liard McMillan

Liard First Nation