They need new homes, roads and schools. But Indigenous communities across Canada ‘can’t catch up’ thanks to staggering $349B infrastructure gap – by Robert Cribb (Toronto Star – April 10, 2024)

In Cat Lake First Nation, there’s only ever enough money to build three new houses a year. For the community of 680 people northwest of Sioux Lookout, Ont., the level of federal infrastructure funding doesn’t come close to addressing the community’s long-standing struggles with housing disrepair, overcrowding and mould, says chief Russell Wesley.

New housing applications to Ottawa just keep piling up, Wesley says. Meanwhile, multiple families live together in some of the reserve’s already dilapidated homes. “We can’t catch up. We can never catch up.”

It will take nearly $59 billion to bring infrastructure in Cat Lake and other Ontario First Nations’ communities in line with the rest of the country by 2030, according to a groundbreaking analysis shared with the Investigative Journalism Bureau and the Star. That’s part of an eye-widening $349-billion infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities across Canada.

That equalization figure — which is 20 times the size of Indigenous Services Canada’s total planned spending for 2024/25 — is required to “minimize the disparity between First Nations and Canadians access to essential community infrastructure,” according to a report co-authored by First Nations organizations, engineering firms and the federal government. The study marks the first-ever calculation of the funding gap.

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