Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Housing concerns in First Nations communities reaching the alarm stage

It's been an ongoing problem now for a number of years, trying to make sure that the available funding for housing in First Nation's communities is made available in order to renovate or build accomodations for those residents in most need.

Now a UBC report if providing an alarming bit of data that provides a link between sub standard housing and health concerns in those communities. A situation that officials would like to see rectified as soon as possible, finding a way to speed up the process of infrastructure money and the work they are supposed to provide for.

Monday's Daily News oultined some of the conditions in those communities and what it may take to finally get the problems addressed from all levels of government responsible for the slow pace of replacement or repair.

Housing conditions causing alarm in villages
The Daily News
Monday, February 16, 2009
Pages one and three

A report by University of British of Columbia researchers is pointing to the direct links between poor housing for First Nations communities and health problems within those communities.

UBC a sociate professor of environmental health Karen Bartlett, along with a group of researchers, is currently looking at how coastal First Nations reserve housing is causing aboriginals increased incidence of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.

The study is to be published later this year but the news does not come as a big surprise to Lax Kw' alaams elected chief John Helin, who said he is dealing with the housing situation right now in his own community.

"Mould is a problem or s and we do have a great deal of it and it does lead to health problems," said Helin Friday.

In an interview with CanWest news services, Bartlett said that the study was conducted in one specific First Nation community and added that it was symptomatic of a lot of housing, particularly on the coast B.C.

Helin said he agreed with that assessment, especially on the North Coast where the precipitation levels are much higher than the rest of the country.

He was critical of the federal government's infrastructure financing for First Nations communities, saying that it has not come on stream fast enough.

"So far, we haven't seen any money as far as finances from the federal budget - it is still early - but they were supposed to fast-track that," said Helin.

Helin added that the fix to the problem is having enough resources to deal with the problem.

"It always comes down to the funding and capacity," said Helin.

First Nations Summit political executive member Grand Chief Doug Kelly said that the money flow has not been as good as had been hoped.

"One of the things I expressed from the budget last month was announcements get made but the money doesn't leave Ottawa. It is hung up in headquarters in Ottawa and doesn't leave for the communities," said Kelly.

Kelly made the comments after it was revealed by the federal opposition Liberals on Thursday that funding commitments from 2007 by the federal Transportation ministry have not made their way to their intended destinations.

Kelly said that the same could be extended to the Department of Indian Affairs and that it was important that the financing gets to the places where it is needed most.

"Sure, making announcements and making commitments is great but get the money to First Nations, provincial and local governments so that they can undertake infrastructure activities."

Skeena-BulkIey Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he expected that the there were two goals that could be reached.

"One is about local employment and the other is about solving the (moldy) housing crisis. We (the NDP) have suggested that the federal government starts local apprenticeship programs at the community level, so that we can build homes that are more suited using local labour and materials," said Cullen.

He said there are four to five Northwest First Nation communities that are already on board to moving forward with the idea.

One of the ways that the Port Simpson community is dealing with its failing housing is through its BCIT-afliliated carpentry training program, which is located in the centre of the Lax Kw'alaams village.

With that program, the level on construction quality goes up and hopefully incidents of mould goes down.

"You have to have qualified people building the houses. If you don't have people doing that, you run into all sorts of problems with, not just mould but the problems stemming from leaking roofs, and that results in rot and mould," said Helin.

No comments: