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2003 April Report of the Auditor General of Canada

April 2003 Report—Chapter 6

Appendix A—Chronology of key studies/reports related to on-reserve housing over the past two decades




The report of the Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, also known as the Penner Report, concluded that economic development of lands and resources on reserves was inadequate. The Committee recommended that, until claims could be settled and an adequate land and resource base provided, First Nations be provided with substantial funding to enable them to build up their community infrastructure, including water, sewage, and housing.


The Report of the Task Force on Program Review, the Nielsen Task Force Report, noted that on-reserve housing continued to be among the poorest in Canada, as evidenced by the fact that one quarter of units were in need of major renovation and one third of units were overcrowded. The Task Force estimated that at least $500 million was required to address the housing shortage. The report recommended, among other things, that housing assistance be provided on the basis of need, and not on the basis of right.


The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs Report to the House of Commons, Unfinished Business: An Agenda for all Canadians in the 1990's, noted that the critical need for adequate housing on reserves continued to be one of the most difficult problems facing Aboriginal people and the government. The Report qualified the housing situation of many First Nations as a crisis—a crisis that has an impact on other concerns such as health and education.


In an Office of the Auditor General chapter on Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Office concluded that the annual supply of houses on reserves was not able to meet the normal replacement demand and much of the older housing on reserves was among the poorest in Canada. It further concluded that the Department had no plan for addressing the existing shortage. The Office recommended that the Department redirect its existing resources and explore a new approach to permitting and encouraging private capital investment in the on-reserve housing market.


The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs Report to the House of Commons, A Time for Action, concluded that there was a crisis in Aboriginal housing due in large part to federal budget reductions, and that addressing the on-reserve housing crisis was an essential precondition to solving many health and social problems. Specifically, the report noted that crowding rates were considerably higher than the Canadian figure and that the gaps were increasing. It further noted that only half of the 70,000 houses on reserves were adequate and suitable for living in. The report contained 14 main recommendations related to housing. These included an injection of funds to address the housing shortage and health and safety deficiencies, and clarification of the government's responsibility and role related to on-reserve housing.


In a follow-up report on Chapter 14 of the 1991 Report, the Office of the Auditor General agreed with the recommendation made by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs that the government bring the Department's review of the on-reserve housing program, begun in 1975, to an immediate conclusion and present recommendations to Cabinet for a new on-reserve housing policy. The report asserted that the issue of a housing shortage was complex and that its resolution would require consultation and action by all the affected parties.


The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People concluded that Aboriginal housing was sub-standard and was threatening the health and well-being of Aboriginal people. Citing the living conditions as intolerable, the report suggested that acute risks to health and safety be treated as an emergency and targeted for immediate action. The report further noted that over one quarter of the houses on reserves needed major repair or replacement. The report contained 11 recommendations related to housing, including, among other things, the need to address adequate housing shortages over a 10-year period, and the need for an injection of additional funds, clarification of treaty rights to housing, increased control and jurisdiction over housing, the establishment of First Nation institutions, shared responsibility for housing costs, and increased co-operation between First Nations and the government.


In Gathering Strength, Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan, the government stated that one of the most important elements of people's sense of well-being is access to good-quality housing. It recognized housing as a priority area and planned to make increased investments, in combination with existing resources, to accelerate implementation of the new on-reserve housing policy by First Nations.


Source: Cited publications