AFN Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak Advocates for Action on Homelessness Among First Nations

Homeless in Thunder Bay
Homeless in Thunder Bay

Urgent Call for Federal Action on Indigenous Homelessness

OTTAWA, ON – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak has strongly endorsed the Federal Housing Advocate’s recent report on homelessness encampments, emphasizing the critical human rights issues at stake.

The report, which was released earlier this week, highlights the disproportionate rates of homelessness experienced by First Nations citizens, a situation exacerbated by historical colonialism, systemic racism, and gaps in housing and infrastructure.

Homeless Encampment on Simpson Street Near Donald Street
Homeless Encampment on Simpson Street Near Donald Street

As tent encampments have become all too common across Canada in the past year, including here in Thunder Bay where Kam Park became the home for up to 75 tents over the summer, and additional camps along McVicars Creek from River Street to the shores of Lake Superior. There are still people living and sleeping outdoors across the city.

Homeless in Thunder Bay Where finding shelter in the foyer of a bank is a night's home.
Homeless in Thunder Bay Where finding shelter in the foyer of a bank is a night’s home.

A Call for Comprehensive Solutions

In her statement, Chief Woodhouse Nepinak described the forced displacement of First Nations individuals from encampments as a violation of human rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The National Chief is advocating for the federal government’s cooperation in creating a National Encampments Response Plan by the end of August 2024. This plan would acknowledge the authority of First Nations to manage housing and homelessness services according to their traditions and needs.

Emphasis on First Nations’ Rights and Needs

Highlighting the essential role of First Nations in addressing this crisis, Chief Woodhouse Nepinak called for significant, dedicated funding to support culturally sensitive housing and social services for those experiencing homelessness.

“First Nations have the right to care for our citizens no matter where they live,” she stated, urging all government levels to implement the report’s recommendations fully and to involve First Nations meaningfully in developing the National Encampments Response Plan.

Support from AFN Housing and Infrastructure Portfolio

Backing Chief Woodhouse Nepinak’s statements, Newfoundland Regional Chief Brendan Mitchell, the AFN housing and infrastructure portfolio holder, also voiced his support for the report’s recommendations.

Mitchell stressed the urgent need for dedicated resources and federal investment to empower First Nations to offer comprehensive support to their citizens, underscoring the importance of recognizing First Nations’ jurisdiction over housing and homelessness services.

The Federal Housing Advocate’s report advocates for government support in delivering culturally appropriate housing solutions and reaffirms the need for recognizing First Nations’ sovereignty in managing these critical services.

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