The housing corporation ministers from the three territories met with federal minister Ahmed Hussen to discuss housing issues in the North on June 18.
The Yukon’s Pauline Frost, Nunavut’s Patterk Netser and the Northwest Territories’ Paulie Chinna all met with Hussen via teleconference.
Frost spoke with the News on June 23 about this meeting.
“The opportunity to have discussions with Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is really to just generate some debate on how we interact with the federal government and look at common threats and common themes across the North,” Frost said.
The group discussed the current federal funding formula for northern housing programs and assessed where each territory is.
One topic discussed was Indigenous housing strategies. The group also looked at how the federal funds are allocated under the national housing strategy.
The remoteness of many northern communities is factored into funding, but the territories are calling for more consideration to be placed on other factors.
“In the meeting with Canada, we wanted to emphasize to Canada that they have a legal obligation to have a nation-to-nation discussion to self-governing First Nations,” Frost said.
She added these conversations need to happen and be respected in order to both adequately and sustainably address housing in the North.
Another topic was the National Housing Co-investment Fund, which provides money to help with new construction or revitalizing affordable housing and can include shelters. The Yukon received $40 million, which should carry the territory over five to eight years.
The three territories want to have input on their allocations, as Frost explained the Yukon should have its own unique approach to what the funding looks like to maximize both federal and territorial funding for housing initiatives.
“That’s what we discussed at the meeting, the importance and the desire of the northern territories to have local input and direction around out territorial carve-outs,” Frost said.
She added that the Yukon is able to stack territorial money, from the Yukon Housing Initiative Fund, with federal funds. This allows for collaboration rather than the Yukon tackling housing alone.
The group next discussed a federal announcement of building two new shelters in the North. These would be specifically for Indigenous women and children escaping domestic violence.
She said the shelters will be built based on an “expression of interest,” meaning an application will have to be sent to the federal government who will assess what the territorial needs are.
“This was problematic for us because it goes against the whole grain of our housing action plan, our strategies on ending homelessness,” Frost said. “It is inconsistent and doesn’t make sense.”
She said the territories told the federal government that it needs to build three shelters in the North because the unique circumstances of the areas need to be considered.
Frost said the territories are ready to support each other on issues they face together.
Contact Gord Fortin at firstname.lastname@example.org