Saskatoon Starphoenix, January 06, 2016 - A leader of Idle No More says the group has found a silver bullet for the housing crisis on First Nations.
And it can fit on the back of a semi.
“We hope that all communities and leadership, including the new Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, take this as a template that underfunding of First Nations communities is unacceptable. That if Idle No More can do this, the federal colonial government can absolutely do this,” Sylvia McAdam said.
She admitted to feeling “weepy” as an eight-foot wide and 16-foot long mini home arrived at Big River First Nation. It will be the home of a band member who has been homeless for 15 years.
The mini home is off the grid — solar powered, with a wood fireplace that charges the solar batteries on cloudy days. It’s well insulated and has a compost toilet.
It respects indigenous laws, the land and the environment, McAdam said. It cost between $40,000 and $45,000, which was covered through fundraising, discounts and in-kind donations.
“I think we’re demonstrating to the federal government, as well as all governments, that it is possible and affordable to provide sustainable, alternative-energy housing. And we need to do that now, there can’t be any excuses,” she said.
The idea came when another member, Alex Wilson, connected with Mini Homes of Manitoba, and they began discussing how to build a home for the man.
“It’s been a labour of love. We’ve had lots of people come in and participate in the building of it,” said Raven Sinclair, a member of Idle No More and associate professor of social work at the University of Regina’s Saskatoon campus. She herself put in the windows and worked on the exterior.
“Personally, sometimes I feel like an armchair activist because I’m an academic — but I also like to renovate and build. So I went out to Manitoba and I helped for three days on this project,” Sinclair said.
Other communities have also expressed interest in the homes, she said.
“We have an incredible housing crisis on First Nation communities. We have about 40,000 houses needing renovation, we need 80,000 units across the country, and everybody has to start somewhere. So this is where we started to try and deal with the issue.”