With the early November election of former Quebec Aboriginal Affairs Minister Pierre Corbeil as the new mayor of Val d’Or has come a renewed hope for three separate housing projects for Aboriginals that were rejected by former Mayor Fernand Trahan.
Edith Cloutier, the executive director of Val d’Or’s Native Friendship Centre, is hopeful that she may now be able to help hundreds of Aboriginal seeking housing in a town where there very little to go around.
As a portal to Northern Quebec, the city has been plagued by one of the lowest vacancy rates in Canada, with hundreds desperate for adequate housing and others out on the streets.
“We don’t want to hide our heads in the sand as an Aboriginal organization. While there is a colour to homelessness here in Val d’Or, it is not exclusive to Natives. At the same time there is a growing number of Aboriginal persons that are homeless here,” said Cloutier.
According to Cloutier, homelessness was a hot topic during the mayoral debates and is on the minds of many Val d’Or residents, who associate those on the streets with petty criminal activity and violence in the city’s downtown core. Many of those want more police and the installation of surveillance cameras downtown.
But Cloutier is hopeful the new mayor will open the door for the three housing projects she is promoting.
“We want to be at the heart of the solutions and with that in mind we have developed the Kijaté projects [an Anishnabe word meaning full of sun], for low-income Aboriginal families and would be done in conjunction with the Société d’habitation du Québec,” said Cloutier.
The Friendship Centre has been pitching a 24-unit apartment building under the SHQ’s AccèsLogis program, which funds projects of this nature. The roadblock is a requirement that 25% of the costs to be covered by the municipality, something Trahan refused to do. That 25% would be covered by the donation of municipal land for the project as well as a tax exemption.
The Friendship Centre is proposing two other 24-unit housing projects – one for Aboriginal student family housing in partnership with UQAT, and a supervised-living facility to help more marginalized people transition off the streets. Architects Without Borders are willing help with the latter project.
Cloutier said Corbeil will be meeting with the Friendship Centre in the coming weeks to learn more about the housing proposals.