The Challenges of Reserve Residences

Amid ongoing discussions and debate about the causes of the socio-economic problems that have plagued reserves for generations, one issue has remained consistent: housing. Reserve residences are often poorly constructed and ill-suited to the needs of Aboriginal families. They lack basic amenities that most Canadians take for granted, such as water and electricity, and the quality of life can be so poor that many First Nations people choose to move away from their reserves.

In some communities, living conditions are better. But for those without the benefits of own-source revenue and high employment, a range of issues persists. The most common is overcrowding, which can make it difficult to get enough sleep and leads to other issues such as respiratory ailments. In addition, house construction is shoddy and poorly maintained.

Despite these challenges, reserves remain a place where culture thrives and where the spirit of resiliency lives on. Reserves are home to many of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, rich Indigenous history and traditions, and thriving languages that are taught in schools and used daily by Aboriginal people. They are also the heart of Canada’s economy and, with the right support, they can be a place where people live in peace and dignity.

Inadequate housing and other socio-economic conditions on reserves are among the greatest challenges for Indigenous Peoples. They have significant negative impacts on health, education and employment, contributing to the high levels of suicide, substance abuse and domestic violence seen in some communities.

A variety of innovative opportunities for more and better-quality housing are available for First Nations communities. These include grants for more affordable homes and the Ministerial Loan Guarantee to help communities obtain loans to build, buy or renovate their houses.

The housing on reserve is often of poor quality and overcrowded. This is often due to the high birth rate on the reserves and the slow rate of house construction. Overcrowding contributes to a number of social issues including children having trouble in school because they are so tired and sleep deprived. Moisture from overcrowded houses contributes to a range of health concerns, such as mould.