In many ways, Indigenous housing is Canada’s first housing: the early dwellings that dotted the vast landscape. These structures were built with respect and understanding of the environment and fortified to withstand long, harsh winters. They also embraced the culture of their inhabitants.
It seems like a straightforward idea: Indigenous communities have control over their housing and a greater voice in the future/direction of the structures they will call home. But historically, this hasn’t been the case. For too long, Indigenous communities have been given housing that doesn’t reflect their unique culture or meet the demands of the natural environment. These structures didn’t fit their needs from the start and have quickly deteriorated in quality.
According to a 2016 Statistics Canada report, one in five Aboriginal people lived in a dwelling that required major repairs. The climate changes have only exacerbated the problem. Permafrost is melting at an accelerated rate, creating foundational and structural issues in current housing. These same structures are also ill-equipped to provide adequate protection and circulation against rising temperatures.
Changing the way we think about Indigenous housing
Despite the challenges, important steps have been taken. In the recent federal budget, the government proposed $4.3 billion over seven years to improve Canada’s Indigenous housing. There have also been successful examples of Indigenous housing that can provide a blueprint for future projects.
At Nomodic, we’ve seen how a commitment to collaboration and partnership can provide safe, affordable, culturally-aware, sustainable structures that will last for generations. We’ve seen first-hand how Indigenous housing can draw upon the natural resources and labour pool of the communities we partner with. Here are a few ways that we have been able to stay true to our purpose to leave things better:
- Providing Indigenous communities with a culturally supportive environment. We listen to the needs of our clients and work from a better understanding of their culture and community. Many of our discussions involve their desire to engage local businesses. Together, we explore all opportunities to utilize local labour and resources whenever possible. Many community members have remained in our workforce and have performed work in nearby communities. The economic impact lasts well beyond building completion. In many cases, we have provided employment and training opportunities for Nation members.
- Dedication to providing culturally-aware spaces. It is our goal to contribute to the spiritual well-being of Indigenous communities by assisting our partners with the establishment and revitalization of cultural and ceremonial spaces. We continue to expand our awareness through research and the generous support of our Indigenous partners and stakeholders.
- Project integration and collaboration. It’s part of our DNA to integrate closely with partners and stakeholders so everyone feels like they’re part of the same team. A constant flow of communication ensures the original project vision is shared and respected by all stakeholders, which allows us to maximize productivity and efficiency. Through this kind of integration, we delivered a tri-plex project for Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, B.C. in less than 12 months. We utilized local contractors, including those for metal work, and civil and electrical engineering. Our team also assisted with a “community cleanup” where we assisted residents in removing waste and other beautification tasks.
- Unrivalled access to a wide spectrum of fabrication partners and construction technologies. There are a vast number of offsite technologies that we bring to the table. We are never limited to one production line or methodology. We can match specific partners and technologies to best suit each project’s demands and timelines. This access helps build structures on an accelerated schedule that are more sustainable, cost-effective, and fit for the community.
- Experience under CMHC’s Rapid Housing Initiative. We have experience and expertise in partnering with Indigenous communities to access important government funding for their projects. We can get involved early in the process to help them get approved funding and ensure projects are optimized from the beginning.
Changing the landscape
With many of our Indigenous projects, we’ve seen the excitement in the community when modules show up on site, waiting to be craned into place. They’re excited to see culturally-aware structures erected with minimal impact on the community. There is an amazing amount of pride in the ownership of a final product that they were integral in creating.
We are all about partnering with communities to create a lasting legacy. As the need continues to grow for a safe place to call home, Nomodic’s goal is to continue our work with Indigenous partners to make a difference in communities across Canada.
– Kevin Read (Nomodic President and CEO), Steve Nomura (Senior VP, Commercial Business & Development) and Tian Alsgard (VP, Construction)
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