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Indigenous-led projects seek housing solutions

Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative includes projects from Northern Ontario
The steering committee guiding the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative includes (from left) Sean Willy, Will Goodon, Pamela Glode-Desrochers, Marcel Lawson-Swain, Dawn Madahbee Leach. Terry Audla is not pictured. (Supplied photo/Impact Canada)

A new initiative is helping to further Indigenous-led ideas to address Indigenous social and housing needs.

Under the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative, 24 proponents have been selected (from 342 submissions) to participate in an Accelerator period, which will provide innovators with mentoring support from Indigenous architects and other professionals to refine their ideas into projects that can be implemented.

The program was open to First Nation, Inuit and Métis Nation innovators who have housing ideas for rural, urban or remote Indigenous communities.

Northern Ontario recipients and their projects include:

Kim Sigurdson from Pikangikum First Nation – Health Authority in partnership with Indigenous Innovations Corporation (Ontario) will receive support with the design and development of its ‘Community Safe Village’. The idea aims to provide safe, transitional, emergency housing with professional and culturally sensitive support for community members escaping violence. Focus area: Support for vulnerable populations

David L. Flood from Wahkohtowin Development General Partnership Inc. (Chapleau, Ontario) will receive support to develop the idea of a "tree to home" supply chain that uses local resources and labour to meet local demand and address housing needs with adaptive, energy-efficient, and custom-designed homes. The project will develop custom-designed homes through partnership with Boreal Products and Hornepayne Lumber. Homes will be constructed using Boreal Products’ thermo-log technology. Focus area: Using the home for empowerment, capacity and support for local business in Indigenous housing

Kathy Fortin from the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre (North Bay, Ontario) will receive support to develop their ‘Suswin Village’ idea. Suswin, which means 'nest' in Ojibway, will provide a safe, accessible and dignified housing solution for Indigenous community members who are ready to leave the emergency shelter system. Suswin Village will provide them with stable housing and individualized wrap-around support services necessary to find permanent housing, employment and overall long-term success and stability in the community. Focus area: Support for vulnerable populations

Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise will receive support for an innovative idea to transform homes in the communities of Fishing Lake Métis Settlement (Alberta), Red Rock Indian Band (Ontario), and the new lands of Animbiigoo Zaagi'igan Anishinaabek (Ontario) to be healthy, energy efficient, culturally appropriate, and durable. Experiences will be shared through the Bringing It Home initiative. This idea focuses on three key outcomes: high-efficiency building standards and training for construction, trades, and home. Focus area: Energy independence and efficiency.

Dawn Madahbee Leach, general manager at the Waubetek Business Development Corp. in Whitefish River First Nation, sits on the Indigenous Steering Committee that helped select the projects.

The McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University in Sudbury is a partner during the Accelerator process.

The 24 proponents selected will spend up to 18 months working on their ideas, and those who demonstrate that their concepts are ready to carry out will receive funding toward their project. A total of $30 million is available for project implementation.

The Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative was announced in April 2019 under Impact Canada, a program of the federal government.

A full list of the selected projects is availble here.