First Nations housing council takes step toward Indigenous-led services

Members of HIC and B.C. First Nations Leadership Council with representatives and Minister Seamus O’Regan from Indigenous Services Canada after signing HIC-ISC MOU. (HIC photo)

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VANCOUVER — The First Nations Housing & Infrastructure Council of B.C. (HIC) has signed what is known as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), having committed to possibilities of a new approach to housing and infrastructure for First Nations in B.C.

The MOU was signed on Jan. 22, 2019 by Deputy Minister of ISC Jean-François Tremblay and by Chair of HIC Chief Dan George on Jan. 24, 2019 in Vancouver at a joint gathering. Members of the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council also signed as witnesses to the MOU.

Signing of the MOU by the two parties marks a significant milestone in HIC’s path to establish a made-in-British Columbia,” Chief Dan George said. “Indigenous Services Canada is an essential partner in the important work HIC is undertaking. Having a formal mandate solidifies the intergovernmental relationship and the extensive work already underway between the parties to ensure collaboration and cooperation in establishing the authority.”

The MOU, which came out of a collaborative effort to co-develop an agreement, formalizes a federal mandate which outlines a new framework for the two parties to work together.

The MOU is hoped to establish a collaborative working relationship between HIC and ISC, which will lead to the development of a First Nation institution that will deliver housing and infrastructure services to Indigenous peoples.

The two parties, however, will need to have an agreement-in-principle in effect as well as clarify what collaboration may look like. Negotiations on a transfer agreement may be set in the future, which would effectively transfer authorities on service delivery to a First Nation institution if approved.

HIC, which has worked on housing issues for First Nations members who live in urban, rural and northern areas in the past, now works toward a First Nations-led housing and infrastructure authority across the province. The authority is set to assume responsibility for Indigenous housing, infrastructure and any relevant programs.

This authority, HIC believes, is yet another step to Indigenous self-governance while also trying to meet the needs of First Nations with a 10-year housing strategy. The MOU emphasizes that an Indigenous view on housing and infrastructure services needs to be in the hands of First Nation communities. The project, in fact, was started by First Nations and is now run by HIC.

HIC was established in 2017 to address the mandate made from members of the B.C. Leadership Council – B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. HIC wants to meet that mandate by transforming housing and infrastructure service delivery in the province by creating an institution responsible for those services.

In the first phase of engagement, HIC reached out to the B.C. housing community, having held meetings with housing service providers, urban housing groups, and many other organizations. Out of those discussions came a number of workshops and meetings to develop three new housing and infrastructure delivery concepts.

Now, HIC is currently in the second phase of engagement, which means taking those delivery models and proposed transfer agreement back to First Nation communities across B.C. for input.