Question Period: Infrastructure in Indigenous communities

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Senator Gold, the government has pledged to close the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities by 2030. However, the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee has warned in its June 2022 report that at the current pace of investments, this target will not be met when it comes to housing.

Can you please elaborate on how the Department of Indigenous Services Canada measures the existing gap, and when we will see the promised estimate of First Nations’ infrastructure needs? Will this estimate be included as part of the investment package in the upcoming Fall Economic Statement?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for these important questions, senator. There is indeed a significant infrastructure gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. Infrastructure investments are a key element of the government’s commitment to foster the growth of safe, healthy and prosperous Indigenous communities and to support the participation in our economy of Indigenous communities and their businesses.

Let me note that since April 2016 and as of June 30, 2023, $9.92 billion in targeted funds has been invested towards 9,457 projects that will benefit Indigenous communities. I have been assured that Indigenous Services Canada will continue to work directly with First Nations, First Nations organizations and other federal organizations to identify what further measures and investments may be required to close this infrastructure gap by 2030.

Senator Klyne: Senator Gold, I appreciate that you’ve highlighted some of the importance of this. The federal underfunding of Indigenous housing has negatively affected many generations in many ways. Failure to fulfill treaty rights and failure to keep promises only lead to Indigenous nations unnecessarily having to beg and litigate.

Given the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee’s projections, is the government planning on increasing investments, implementing additional programs aimed at providing on-reserve housing in order to deliver on this promise to Indigenous communities?

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator. The government has committed over $6 billion in funding since 2016 to address these long-standing housing gaps in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Recently the government made investments in First Nations housing, committing $2.4 billion over the next five years to support closing the housing gap in First Nations. More needs to be done, but the government is doing as much as it can at this juncture.

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