Reserve residences, also known as Indigenous housing or Aboriginal houses, are properties built on Aboriginal reserves or land held in trust by the Crown. They provide housing to members of First Nations bands.
These communities are often in difficult socio-economic situations and face numerous challenges. These include the presence of Native homeless populations, a lack of sufficient housing, and limited access to resources such as fish and timber.
A large part of these difficulties are due to the legacy of colonialism and its impact on Indigenous peoples. They have endured many hardships, including the displacement of their communities, discriminatory legislation, and assimilationist programs such as the Indian Act and residential schools.
The Canadian government, through a combination of policy and action, is trying to improve the conditions of Aboriginal peoples living on reserves. This includes funding and assistance to address the social, economic, environmental, and political needs of the Indigenous community.
There are several options for improving the situation on reserves, including relocating homes, increasing access to resources, and providing financial assistance. This is being done through a variety of programs, some of which are administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
Despite the availability of funds and assistance, many First Nations still struggle to find adequate housing on their reserves. In addition, they face limitations on development, such as restrictions on how they can use their lands. This is in part because of the government’s right-of-way on their lands, which can reduce the amount of usable space.
One option for addressing these issues is to remove the restrictions on their lands, which has been proposed by both sides of the political spectrum. This would allow for a more open relationship between reserve communities and non-Aboriginal “white” communities.
This would enable Indigenous residents to benefit from the opportunities that urban areas offer, such as better jobs and education opportunities. It would also help to ease the transition from reserve life to non-reserve living, a process that can be arduous for many Indigenous communities.
However, there is a growing consensus that this solution is not the only way to improve the conditions of Indigenous peoples on reserves. Other approaches are being explored, such as the establishment of fee simple lands or the relocating of existing reserves to other locations in order to accommodate the broader needs of the Indigenous community.
These solutions will take time to implement and may not result in immediate improvement. But they are worth exploring as a first step to tackling the many problems that Native peoples face on their reservations.
While many of the above proposals are still debated, there is a growing recognition among leaders and activists that they can work towards improving the situation on reserves while maintaining their Aboriginal ways of life. This is a key component of implementing an Indigenous-owned and operated nation-to-nation relationship.
While the decision to move off of reserves will be up to individual communities, the fact that there are many more Aboriginal Canadians living in cities compared to on-reserves suggests that urban living is preferable for many First Nations peoples. In many cases, city-dwelling North American Indians enjoy better job opportunities, higher educational achievements, and greater earnings than their on-reserve counterparts. This is a fact that should give First Nations policy makers and leaders in Ottawa pause.