Study on Challenges and Potential Solutions Relating to First Nations Infrastructure on ReservesPublished on 12 March 2015 Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:
Honourable senators, I have the pleasure of serving on the Aboriginal Peoples Committee with Senator Tannas, and so much of what he said here today is at the core of what we found and of what we have to do.
We were on some reserves where people didn’t have the $200 a month to pay rent, so they were evicted and others moved into their houses. There were condemned buildings and, as Senator Tannas said, sheds on these reserves that people moved into as their homes. If you see that, you count your own blessings every day. Some of these homes had mould literally three or four feet up the wall.
We’ve gone in there and the department has funded the construction of homes without adherence to national building codes. So right off the bat these people are starting behind the eight ball. It wouldn’t have taken much to have had proper materials and design. With many of these homes in the North, you open the door and you’re right in the living space; there is no porch or break from the weather.
Here’s a sad one: We were on one reserve in northern Ontario. The department insisted they spend $200,000 on street signs. I mean, they had water trouble, sewage trouble and housing trouble, and they had to spend $200,000 on street signs. It’s those types of things that drive you crazy when you’re out there trying to do the right thing for the greater good.
There are some wonderful examples, though, of terrific management, foresight and drive. Senator Tannas mentioned the tribe in Osoyoos that were wonderful. Membertou, in my province of Nova Scotia, has it together. In Kelowna and Kamloops, these people have good vision and management, and they are sticking to the plan. They don’t squander their funds; they are looking for deals and they are getting deals from people off reserve, whether it’s wineries or other businesses. People in Membertou are looking at some deals out West.
They are great entrepreneurs. All they need is a chance. The dignity of a job and taking home that paycheque every week would do a lot to turn this around. There are some wonderful opportunities with resource lands, but these bands have to get together with a unified voice and work with the development companies that could help them so they can retain some ownership revenues and own-source revenues, and start to do some of the stuff that Senator Tannas talked about.
It’s a real wake-up call to be on some of these First Nation reserves and to see what they’re living with. You can readily see what has to be done, and there is a lot to be done. But this interim report was quite an eye-opener for me and I would urge honourable colleagues to look at it.