Reserve residences are communities located on reserves, or “sacred lands” owned by First Nations people in Canada. Many of these places are remote, secluded and not connected to larger towns or cities. Those living on a reserve are often isolated from the outside world and have limited access to basic services like electricity, running water and transportation.
Despite the hardships that reserve communities face, their survival depends on their ability to maintain their Indigenous culture and traditions. During the colonial period, reserve communities were subjected to cultural genocide, racial discrimination, and government policies that sought to assimilate them into non-Aboriginal “white” society.
As a result, their survival and well-being were threatened, which is why the colonial governments of Canada began to establish and administer a reservation system in order to protect Aboriginal peoples. Although the system has its problems, it has also served as a vital lifeline for countless Aboriginal peoples throughout Canadian history.
The First Nations reserve system in Canada is a complex and ongoing topic of discussion. Some of the most pressing issues are those related to social and economic wellbeing, environmental conservation, land management, housing, health care and education.
These challenges are the result of the enduring and widespread social and economic disadvantages that have plagued Aboriginal peoples since the arrival of European settlers. They are caused by policies and practices that impede the development of healthy communities, including racialized laws, residential schools and the Indian Act.
On-reserve ghettos and substandard housing
Sadly, many reserve residents still live in ghetto-like conditions. This is due to the fact that a large number of reserves have not been built with sufficient living space and amenities, particularly if they are located in rural areas where there is no city or town nearby.
One of the most important issues to address is the availability of decent, affordable housing for people who live on reserves. Fortunately, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has created on-reserve housing loan programs that can be used by band members to build or repair their homes.
Some bands have even been able to use federal money for renovations of their homes and other improvements to their communities. CMHC has also made funding available for infrastructure, including roads, water, and wastewater systems on reserves.
It is estimated that 40% of all the homes on Canadian reservations are considered inadequate, and native homeless populations are increasing every year. This makes the issue of on-reserve housing more critical than ever.
This problem has also led to the emergence of community-based organizations that assist individuals who find themselves in situations of financial difficulty. This includes the Indigenous Services Canada Income Assistance Program, which is meant to help eligible individuals and families on reserves to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life.
There are also a variety of other government services for First Nations in Canada that support their on-reserve communities and promote their sustainability. These include programs to help people live a healthy lifestyle, improve their mental and physical health, prevent family violence and reduce youth risk behaviors.