Wiikwemkoong recently celebrated the opening of a new six-unit housing complex utilizing energy preserving and mould resistant materials through an investment from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

By Rick Garrick

WIIKWEMKOONG UNCEDED TERRITORY—Six families in Wiikwemkoong and eight Elders in Sagamok Anishnawbek now have new homes thanks to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) investments.

The Wiikwemkoong families are currently moving into their new homes in the recently completed six-unit housing complex, which was built through an INAC investment.

“Some of them are excited because now they get to go into a unit that is more feasible and accommodating for the family needs,” says Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier. “The units are three-bedroom units, so the six families will be able to put a roof over their head for themselves.”

The housing project, which included lot servicing and construction, provided full-time employment for 20-30 construction and trades people.

“The construction crews that are hired are all fully qualified and do the house from the foundation right down to the finishing,” Peltier says. “Most of the specialized [trades people] are our own community members who are electricians or plumbers who are hired to do that work.”

The new homes were built from October 2016-May 2017 in one of Wiikwemkoong’s subdivisions that overlooks Lake Huron. The project was completed ahead of schedule.

“This investment is an important first step in improving the housing conditions for our members and will have an impact on the quality of life for six families in our community,” Peltier says. “We continue to seek out support from the federal government to increase the housing compliment that we manage and operate here in our existing housing portfolio.”

Built using energy preserving and mould resistant materials, the housing units meet Ontario’s building codes for environmental conservation and have energy saving appliances.

“Using energy efficient technologies [is] something we have been doing here in our community for many years now,” Ogimaa Peltier says.

The project provided the workers with valuable hands-on learning experience for building safer, more environmentally friendly homes.

“Congratulations to Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory for this initiative that will bring six families into safe and healthy homes,” says INAC Minister Carolyn Bennett. “These immediate investments will improve the quality of life for First Nations families and help to advance Canada on the journey of true reconciliation.”

Wiikwemkoong is one of 55 First Nation communities across Ontario that are benefitting from Budget 2016 housing investments from INAC.

“By having units being built on a regular basis, it allows us to keep housing needs under check,” Ogimaa Peltier says. “And it also allows us to accommodate the growing families.”

The Sagamok Anishnawbek Elders Eagle Lodge Expansion Project featured the addition of eight new one-bedroom apartments to the previously existing fourteen-unit complex. CMHC provided some funding for the project through the On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program (Section 95) while Sagamok Anishnawbek contributed additional monies in equity.

“Through the On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program, our government is providing assistance to those who need it most, like the Elders here at Sagamok Anishnawbek and in all corners of the country,” says Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of Families, Children and Social Development and minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “We share Sagamok Anishnawbek’s vision in creating high quality affordable housing, which helps promote pride, home ownership responsibility, individual well-being and makes communities stronger and more vibrant.”

The Elders Eagle Lodge will also receive a yearly operating subsidy through Section 95. The Section 95 program enables First Nations to build, buy, repair and administer affordable rental housing on-reserve.