November 16, 2018
HIC was honoured to participate in the Assembly of First Nations 2018 National Housing & Infrastructure Forum, held October 31 to November 2, 2018 in Vancouver, to provide an update on progress and lessons learned in carrying out its political mandate to design and implement a First Nations Housing & Infrastructure Authority in BC.
Appropriately themed, “First Nations Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy Developed by First Nations for First Nations”, the Forum hosted discussion on the long-term approach for First Nations housing and related infrastructure on First Nations as well as housing for First Nations members who live in urban, rural and northern areas. The gathering brought together chiefs, housing and infrastructure managers, indigenous housing service providers, First Nations organizations, and consultants, government officials and non-government entities involved in First Nations housing and infrastructure from across the country.
HIC’s participation in this important event provided an opportunity to generate awareness of its work, hear perspectives from other groups carrying out their mandates and gain valuable feedback from those responsible for housing and infrastructure delivery. In addition to taking the stage in two sessions, HIC Council Members and Society Board Members sat in on panel sessions and other workshops.
On October 30, HIC Vice Chair Mark Point and Executive Director Garry Merkel shared the stage with their counterparts in the National and Regional Updates panel presentation, who collectively reported on their work as well as the AFN Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure and the Working Group. Sharing an update on BC’s progress, Chief Mark and Garry highlighted HIC’s engagement outreach and feedback heard, leading to development of design model options, and relationship building with First Nations, federal and provincial government, existing housing and infrastructure service providers.
In the October 31 workshop, HIC Member Dr. Sylvia Olsen and Garry shared lessons learned in HIC's journey to create a community-focused housing and infrastructure authority. The presentation recapped the development process considerations, delving into community engagement, political and intergovernmental relationships, and management and governance. Underscoring the presentation was the message that extensive engagement, consultation and collaboration with the First Nations housing community and existing housing and infrastructure service providers is essential to achieving success and cannot be rushed.
As Garry described, “Being first is rewarding, but also much more difficult. HIC is charting new territory to deliver on a directive from First Nations leadership and the federal government. We can learn from other agencies and regions, but there are no templates to work from. We are creating a new model and learning as we go.”
Dr. Olsen echoed this sentiment. “We are taking the lead to improve housing and build new relationships. It’s an unfolding process and our engagement and scope are growing. We may make mistakes along the way and if it takes longer, that’s okay. We need to do the right thing to ensure all perspectives are included and that we create a housing and infrastructure authority that meets the needs of BC’s First Nations.”