Culturally appropriate housing will someday be available for Snuneymuxw peoples experiencing homelessness in their community.
BC Housing and the Snuneymuxw First Nation have signed a memorandum of understanding to create new affordable and culturally appropriate housing for women and children, elders and people experiencing homelessness, the government said in a press release issued Monday. The buildings may also feature cultural support services and spaces for ceremonies and community gatherings.
Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief, Mike Wyse, calls the memorandum of understanding a step forward and says it’s a start towards deconstructing systemic and racist approaches.
“With this step forward, by signing this memorandum of understanding, we begin to deconstruct these systemic and racist approaches, and begin to redesign an approach that unlocks overdue access to housing for Snuneymuxw people and respects our way of life,” said Chief Wyse in a press release Monday. “Together we can build community wellness and community healing.”
It’s the first time BC Housing has entered into an MOU with a First Nation that is specifically aimed at developing culturally appropriate housing, according to the province, which says they hope the MOU will serve as a model for similar agreements with other First Nations in B.C.
Meanwhile, Wyse says access to basic housing has been denied to the Snuneymuxw people because of colonial policies and legislative acts.
“Access to basic and equitable housing has, for centuries, been denied to the Snuneymuxw People due to oppressive colonial policies and legislative acts designed to create substandard housing for Indigenous peoples,” he said.
BC Housing and the Snuneymuxw First Nation say they are looking to achieve certain sets of goals through initiatives such as effectively dealing with the homelessness issue within the First Nation territory and “embracing a holistic view” of housing that supports and nurtures community while emphasizing environmental sustainability.
Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson says her government wants to explore new ways to address the lack of housing for the SFN.
“In 2018, we became the first province in Canada to invest in Indigenous housing on reserve, a federal jurisdiction,” Malcolmson said. “Now, we’re partnering with the Snuneymuxw First Nation so that we can deepen our understanding and develop culturally appropriate housing that meets the needs of the community.”
The Snuneymuxw First Nation is located in the Nanaimo region and is one of the largest First Nations in the province, with a population of more than 1,700.
Nanaimo mayor Leonard Krog called it an important step forward.
“This MOU is an important step on the path toward ensuring greater housing and health equity for Snuneymuxw women, children, Elders and those struggling with homelessness,” he said in the release.