Moving towards reconciliACTION
In Canada, a growing number of Indigenous people live and make their homes in major cities. Indigenous people are a vibrant part of the social fabric that makes Canadian cities an enviable place to live. But too often, urban Indigenous people are living in the margins. This is unacceptable and speaks to the need for ongoing reconciliation and relationship-building at the municipal level.
Recently, there have been some great examples in Surrey, Chilliwack, and Mission (to name a few) that have truly welcomed Indigenous leadership at municipal economic and policy tables for change. This is progress and true reconciliACTION.
Despite this progress, our research at AHMA indicates many cities grapple with not only making the commitment to reconciliation but demonstrating their commitment through action, represented by shifts in policy that advance Indigenous control and autonomy in decision-making practices. In BC, the vast majority of municipalities do not recognize Indigenous priorities in housing needs assessment, which drive municipal housing targets. While Indigenous communities are proven to have the greatest need, it does not appear to be well understood or prioritized by many municipalities.
From this perspective, reconciliation is merely a performative exercise, rather than a process to redistribute power and resources. In committing to reconciliation, municipalities need to recognize and prioritize their urban Indigenous communities and advance housing projects that support greater social inclusion. This includes the distribution of municipal economic resources and lands toward projects that directly benefit Indigenous people, and support housing for those that need it most.
With nearly 40% Indigenous representation in communities experiencing homelessness, and 80% extreme over-representation in housing needs across the spectrum, true change requires Indigenous leaders at all policy and economic tables at all levels of government.
AHMA’s research is available in the 2021 Urban Indigenous Housing in BC Report and in AHMA’s 2022 URN Indigenous Housing Strategy for BC.
– Margaret Pfoh