Housing has been one of three factors impacting controlling the spread of COVID-19, said Tl’azt’en Nation councilor Leslie Aslin. “What I’d like to see happen is to get these proper homes built on-reserve and not just thrown up for once and say there you go. (Leslie Aslin photo)

Housing has been one of three factors impacting controlling the spread of COVID-19, said Tl’azt’en Nation councilor Leslie Aslin. “What I’d like to see happen is to get these proper homes built on-reserve and not just thrown up for once and say there you go. (Leslie Aslin photo)

On-reserve housing conditions challenge First Nations’ fight against COVID-19

People really need to learn and not be quick to judge First Nations reserves: First Nation councillor

Overcrowding and lack of adequate housing has made COVID-19 even more challenging in First Nation communities across B.C.

It’s a situation Tl’azt’en First Nation councillor Leslie Aslin is all too familiar with.

Housing conditions are poor in the Indigenous community, which is located in two semi-isolated reserves in the Stuart Lake area, north of Fort St. James.

For the nearly 450 residents living on-reserve, there are 130 homes, many of which were constructed over 20 years ago and weren’t built to last, Aslin said.

While the homes with three-bedrooms or less may be inhabitable, they have bad windows, mold and far too little space for their many occupants.

“You do the math, and you figure out six to 14 people are living in one home, and that’s the situation we live with on our reserve,” he said.

“That’s why I think the vaccine was so important because we’re living in overcrowded homes, and there’s just so much high risk for everybody in the community.”

Read More: A first in the Chilcotin: Tl’etinqox builds six-unit Elders complex

At Yunesit’in First Nation west of Williams Lake, housing is also an issue for their approximate 273 residents living on-reserve.

The Yunesit’in Government had set up the community’s library, youth centre and daycare, and two ATCO trailers as spaces for people to isolate themselves from other household members safely.

None of the buildings have a shower or bathtub. Only the daycare has a stove, but members have been keen on supporting each other where they can and have offered up plates of food.

“To isolate somebody when they’re living in a five-bedroom home with 17 people it’s a little difficult,” said band manager Dwayne Emmerson.

In B.C., First Nations need at least 50,000 homes to address homelessness and overcrowding, said BC Assembly First Nations Regional Chief Terry Tegee, who believes there is a lack of sustainable funding both provincially and federally.

“We’re pretty grateful for the $550 million from the provincial government for on- and off-reserve housing, but it’s over a 10-year period, and if we calculate that’s approximately 175 homes per year,” he said.

Read More: Province commits to $550 million for Indigenous housing

Read More: More provinces sign up for rent benefit as Liberals set up promised housing council

For the more than 200 First Nations in B.C., Teegee believes the funding is not nearly enough.

“We got to apply and if we don’t meet the criteria then we got to go back to square one and try to figure out what we’re going to do about our housing situation because it’s a very big issue in every First Nation community,” Aslin said.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Aboriginal people in Canada is expected to continue growing, exceeding 2.5 million by 2026.

As Tl’azt’en dips into its financial resources to assist in renovations and potential housing projects for its on-reserve members, off-reserve members are kept from returning home.

Aslin said transportation and addictions also impacted controlling the spread of COVID-19.

“You got people criticizing First Nations people saying they get all this and that but it’s not really that good in the reserve when you’re living in overcrowded homes and managing poverty a lot, and there’s not much work, not much employment at all,” Aslin said.

“People really need to learn and not be quick to judge First Nations reserves.”

look at how my mom and them are living rn in a house that has been condemned and it’s just get worse every year. Thank you so much tlazten nation you guys did a great job of fixing up my mom’s house

Posted by Marion Joseph on Wednesday, December 2, 2020


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First NationsHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Public input sought for B.C.’s police act review

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

A Williams Lake area family living on Knife Creek Road lost everything to a house fire on Wednesday, March 3. (Photo submitted)
House fire destroys rural family home south of Williams Lake

The Macdonalds built their home on Knife Creek Road about 30 years ago

International Women’s Day is March 8, 2021. (Internationalwomensday.com)
International Women’s Day 2021: #choosetochallenge

International Women’s Day is marked annually on March 8

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

Whitewater kayaking on the Quesnel River is enjoyed by many travellers seeking adventure in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. (Greg Sabatino photo)
MAYOR’S COLUMN: Maximizing Quesnel’s natural strengths

Mayor Bob Simpson looks at Quesnel’s branding efforts

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

Most Read