Homelessness in indigenous people of British Columbia

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Running header: Homelessness in indigenous people of British Columbia 1

British Columbia is a province of Canada located between the pacificand the Rocky Mountains. It has a population of four million peopleit is a component of the Pacific Northwest and the Cascadianbioregion. The colony of British Columbia was founded in 1858 byRichard clement moody. This was a result of the first Britishsettlement in the area in 1843 in Victoria. Founded to be the secondEngland on the shores of pacific, the capital is Victoria with thelargest city being Vancouver.

The indigenous people of this land are known as the first nation.These inhabitant people have a history of almost 10,000 years in theregion. The first nation languages are accredited to have shade lightto the way of living of the early man. Ideally, the first nationlanguages have experienced evolution in the past over 10,000 yearsand can attest to the way of living of the early man through oralmethods and their way of living. It is evident that they value theirway of living and abide by it. As many traditional societies operate,the community has a set of rules and regulation thus the first nationlanguage way of living has provided insights to anthropologist on thelife of the early man.

Colonization brought a new era into the region. As many attest, whenthe Europeans came into the area, the inhabitants despised their wayof living therefore choose to uphold their belief rather than adoptthe European beliefs. However, the colonial government believed thatthe indigenous people were not able to utilize their land to its fullpotential thus decided that all land belonged to the colonist (Abele,Nick, &amp Haché, 2012). In respect to that, all the natives weremoved to reserves that were set up by the colonizer. These changesdid not go well with the natives who struggled to support themselvesin the overpopulated reserves.

The main activities of the first nation languages were hunting,gathering, and were nomadic. However, colonization introduced limitsto their lifestyle and hindered them to participate in activitiesthat supported their livelihood. The Europeans had a negativeinfluence in the social structure as their disoriented the populationto suit their need. In the late 1930s, the number of reserves hadrisen to 1500 in the British Columbia province. The population wastaking a slump as the natives struggled with epidemics such assmallpox, which claimed approximately 50% of the native population.

As at 2011, the total population of the region was an estimated4,074,380 and the aboriginal group who are the natives are only 4.8%of the population. However, the largest population group in theregions is English with 71.5% (Statistics Canada, 2017). These showthat over the last 200 years the population of European immigrantshas fluctuated from 1% to 71.5 and is projected to increase in thecoming years. Even though, the ancestors of the natives owned theland, up to date the land still belongs to the state and no landaccreditation has been made in the regard of the first nations.

Homelessness among the indigenous languages in the British Columbiaregion is a disturbing factor. In the words of Leach (2012), Canadafaces a national crisis in aboriginal homelessness. He further notesthat even though homeless has risen in the general population, thenumber of aboriginals in that population is well represented. Thisis shown by the 34% rate of the increase rate of homelessness amongthe aboriginal compared to 21% of the general population (StatisticsCanada, 2017). In the British Columbia province, 32% of homelesspeople are aboriginal despite accounting for only 4.8% of the generalpopulation of the province. In cities such as Vancouver, 71% ofhomeless people are aboriginal thus raising the alarm of a largenumber of the population faced by the pandemic (Abele, Nick, &amp Haché, 2012).

The high rate of homelessness in the greater population was majorlycaused by the move of the federal government to have housing cuts andreducing the development of new subsided affordable housing in 1993.This increased the cost of the housing thus making it difficult forthe less privileged in the society to afford to house. In addition,the price of a residential house has risen almost by 100% whileincome has reduced over the years thus making it hard to afford ahouse (Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 2017). The combinationof these factors created a barrier enough to limit the number oflow-income Canadians who can afford housing. The aboriginals sufferedmore than other populations since their culture had been disorientedby colonization, which robbed them of the livelihood and depositedthem in reserves.

Colonization introduced residential schooling among the children ofthe aboriginal people (Britten, 2012). Education is well recognizedto be the bridge that ferries a community to survival in the modernworld. Literacy is a tool used to eradicate poverty in mostunderdeveloped regions of the world. However, the use of residentialschools for aboriginal children made it hard for them to attaineducation. As Leach (2011) reports, the children faced limitingfactors such as physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Besides,they were isolated from their families thus lack their localized oralhistory and proper parenting. These also alienated them from formaleducation thus high illiteracy levels amongst the aboriginal youths.Practically, the children were isolated from their families anddeprived of mainstream education thus falling short of acquiringskills that would enable them to actually attain formal employmentand cater well for their families.

The treaties implemented by the colonizer made sure that they weremoved to reserves from which they had limited access to land andresources thus setting up a population that fully depends onEuropeans to survive on their own native land. Unable to sustainthemselves, the community took a dip in population and development.All these factors describe the face of a homeless aboriginal whoattended a residential school, has had a detrimental childhood, orhas been in jail or parents were in jail. Consequently, theyeventually lack employment because of discrimination or insufficientlevels of education thus fail to afford housing either in rural orurban areas.

The federal government took the first step in addressing the issue byrecognizing it as a looming disaster in the 1990s. The introductionof programs such as the National Homelessness initiative,homelessness partnering strategy and affordable housing initiativewhich aimed at reducing the rates of homelessness by introducingstakeholders such as municipal agencies and the private sector.

The National homelessness initiative focused more on the aboriginalpeople than the other initiatives even though it attained minimalmileage in addressing the issue. The program brought in majorshareholders who understood the essentially of working together toserve the community in a non-profitable manner. Besides, theapproaches used in the program relied on either housing first ortreatment first. In the housing first approach, the agencies work oncreating permanent housing for the homeless. In contrast, treatmentfirst majors on rehabilitation of the homeless individual. In thisapproach, the participant is required to go into a temporary shelterto transition housing and the permanent housing after rehabilitation.The requirements for permanent housing include drug and substance useabstinence and participation in mental health treatment.

Despite the federal government’s efforts, their bid failed to curband contain homelessness. The initiatives were ridiculed by thepolitical arena for goalless and failing to address the relevantpopulation. Even though significant steps were taken, they failed toaddress the rising rate of homelessness, especially among theaboriginals. This failure may guarantee the continuous increase ofthe number of homeless aboriginals in the streets of the cities inBritish Columbia.

In spite of the committed to the aboriginal generations in thecolonial era, a solution should be formulated to cater for thecurrent generation and incumbent generations. As Leach (2012)suggests, only an aboriginal leadership can solve the aboriginalhomelessness problem. This leadership should have the backing of theaboriginal people, the federal government, municipal agencies and theprivate sector.

The government in conjunction other parties should formulate bothshort and long-term goals and objectives to curb the disasterabundantly. Thus, an agency should be created to facilitate and runthe logistics on the best way to tackle the issue. As a governmentinitiative, the agency should ensure it addresses the direct needs ofthe aboriginals. As a long-term goal, they should formulate, propose,and implement policies that safeguard the future of aboriginalgenerations and enable them to thrive in the social, economic, andpolitical scene. The best dosage the government can offer isstrengthening the education sector in amongst the aboriginalcommunity. This can be done by offering a subsidy to education thusmaking it affordable to the locals. The creation of awareness of theimportance of education amongst the population is also vital inimproving the general view towards education by the marginalizedcommunities.

In short-term approaches, the agency should collect data on thedirect causes of homelessness and use them to create a viablenational strategy. This strategy should involve all sectors and beculturally appropriate to the aboriginal people. It should developand support evidence-based solutions that are effective practically.Above all, it should have the approval of the marginalizedcommunities in the British Colombia. The involvement of the clientwill ensure wide approval of the plan (Beck and Shard, 2012).Ideally, the plan should provide for affordable transitional andpermanent housing, culturally appropriate staffing, training, andemergency temporary shelter services.


The homelessness problem among the natives of British Columbia hasbeen a looming problem since colonization. Land displacement andresidential schooling are the major factors introduced by colonistthat affected the entire native population to date. The developmentof the aboriginals as a community has been stagnant over the decadebecause of these factors. However, the federal government hasrecognized the problem therefore it should set up policies andprograms that will contain the issue. In order to rejuvenate andrestructure the livelihoods of these communities, they should offerlong-term solutions that will safeguard future generations. However,immediate action should be taken to curb the menace and reduce therates especially amongst the inhabitants in British Columbia who areworst affected.


Abele, F., Nick, F. &amp Haché, A. (2012) Homeless in the Homeland:A Growing Problem for Indigenous People in Canada’s North,Homelessness and Dispossession, Parity vol 23. 9 pg 18-20.

Beck, K.&amp Shard, K.(2012) SAFE TRACKS –A Strategic Frameworkfor Supporting Aboriginal Mobility and Reducing AboriginalHomelessness, Homelessness and Dispossession , Parity vol 23. 9 pg12-17.

Britten, L (2012) Indigenous Journeys from School to Work: A CanadianPerspective, Homelessness, and Dispossession, Parity vol 23. 9 pg27-32.

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (2017) Retrieved on 20/03/2017http://homelesshub.ca/solutions/population-specific/indigenous-peoples

Leach, A. (2012) The Roots of Aboriginal Homelessness in Canada,Homelessness and Dispossession, Parity vol 23. 9 pg 21-25.

Statistics Canada (2017) Profile-British Colombia, Retrieved on20/03/2017http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/standard/prprofile/prprofile.cfm?G=59