Original Published on Aug 20, 2022 at 07:56

By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government says $34 million will be distributed to four Métis organizations in the Northwest Territories to address “urgent housing needs.” 

Over the next seven years, $20 million will go to the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, $7 million to the North Slave Métis Alliance, $3.5 million to the Fort Simpson Métis Council and $3.5 million to the Fort Providence Métis Council.

“Today’s housing funding allocation… couldn’t have come at a better time, as our Fort Providence Métis members’ housing is ageing and in need of repairs,” said Clifford McLeod, president of the Fort Providence Métis Council, in prepare remarks. 

“This is also an opportunity to make our homes more energy efficient as we are now living with climate change.”

Earlier this year, Garry Bailey of the N.W.T. Métis Nation set out specific challenges his members face while appearing before a parliamentary committee examining Canada’s Indigenous housing shortage.

“Members of the N.W.T. Métis Nation make up a significant percentage of the population in Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife, but we do not have reserved lands. We have never benefited from federal housing programs for First Nations,” Bailey told MPs at the time.

“The Métis Nation is recognized by the GNWT and Canada as an Aboriginal government. Despite this admission, the government does not provide core funding for housing to the Métis Nation the way it does to First Nations, as is mandated by the Daniels decision,” Bailey continued at the committee hearing, referring to a 2016 Supreme Court decision regarding Ottawa’s duty toward Métis people.

While Bailey acknowledged that Métis Nations received $8 million over four years for critical infrastructure and housing in 2021, he argued this was “substantially less funding” than other Indigenous governments receive on a per-capita basis. 

“At a minimum, N.W.T. Métis Nations must be treated on an equitable basis with Indian bands and status Indians in respect to all aspects of federal housing programs and services,” he told MPs.

Asked about those remarks, a representative from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said the 2018 federal budget had set aside $500 million to support a Métis Nation housing strategy and $341 million for Métis post-secondary education, healthcare and a skills and employment training program.

Quoted in a federal news release late last week, Bailey said the latest announcement recognized some of the issues outlined in the parliamentary committee meeting. 

“This funding is truly a milestone initiative by the Government of Canada in recognition of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation’s status as a self-government body,” Bailey was quoted as saying.

He told Cabin Radio the first focus will be home repairs, followed by the offering of down payments for employed members, with priority going to Elders.

“If they’ve worked all their lives, they should get a break. We want to help people to build their future and contribute to their communities. The first thing they need to do that is a roof over their head,” Bailey said.

Leaders of the other groups receiving funding could not be reached for comment.

This item reprinted with permission from Cabin Radio, Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories