Reserve residences are a distinct type of housing available in Canadian communities. These properties were originally created to serve the needs of Aboriginal peoples and are still in use today. They are primarily located in areas of low economic growth, limited resources and restrictions on development.
The socio-economic challenges faced by many reserve communities are complex and the reasons for these difficulties are largely unknown. However, they are generally attributed to a variety of factors including:
Discriminatory legislation such as the Indian Act and federal programs such as the residential school system caused enduring hardships on reserves. They also hindered the re-establishment of social networks and the development of stable communities.
Increasingly, these conditions are leading to the collapse of reserve communities and the loss of traditional Indigenous cultures. This is a major concern for both the governments and First Nations peoples, who have long sought to ensure their independence and cultural self-determination.
One of the main issues facing reserves is the lack of adequate housing for Aboriginal peoples. The majority of homes on reserve are small, poorly built structures whose construction is usually sponsored by government officials. This type of housing is not suited to the size and scope of most Aboriginal families.
In addition, many reservations do not have adequate utilities or infrastructure. This can make it difficult for residents to get electricity, water or other essential services.
This issue is particularly challenging for First Nations peoples who often have limited education and lower levels of economic development compared to their non-reserve counterparts. As a result, many reserves are home to high numbers of homeless people.
Although there are some exceptions to this trend, the overall trend is that of declining on-reserve economic and social well-being. This is true of First Nations in every region across Canada, but it appears to be particularly acute in British Columbia and Ontario.
Despite these serious challenges, there are some positive developments. For example, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has launched a new income assistance program to help families on reserves transition from relying on the reserve for their livelihoods to living more independently.
These initiatives are part of Canada’s national response to the socio-economic crisis that is confronting First Nations in Canada. It is estimated that as many as a third of the country’s First Nations population are living on reserves and that their housing conditions and quality of life are poor.
The Canadian government, through CMHC, has developed a number of programs to address this need. It offers loan programs to members of bands who are unable to obtain bank financing.
It also provides funding to develop and build housing on reserves. In some cases, these funds are matched by the federal government.
Another way that the government seeks to help First Nations people is through a number of programs designed to promote healthy lifestyles. These include community-based health and wellness centres and a range of physical activities.
While these efforts have improved the lives of some First Nations people, they are not enough to solve the long-standing problems that surround many reserves. For instance, the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario has a deteriorating public health situation.