National Chief Perry Bellegarde on indigenous poverty

The gap must be closed.

That was one of the messages heard at National Chief Perry Bellegarde’s address to Calgary’s business community on July 22.

This gap, Chief Bellegarde said, is the economic and social issues that disproportionately devastate indigenous communities in Canada.

“This gap represents homelessness and inadequate homes on the reserve,” the Chief said. “It represents the disproportionate number of First Nations people in jails, the missing women and girls, the high numbers of children in provincial care, the high numbers of youth suicide among our people, the high rates of diabetes and tuberculosis.

“This gap is not good for any province. It’s not good for our people and it’s not good for this country.”

Indigenous peoples make up less than 3% of Calgary’s population yet they make up 21% of people who are homeless in our city.

RESOLVE is addressing this issue by providing affordable and supported homes for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians.

Blaine Favel, member of RESOLVE’s Major Gifts Council, echoed Chief Bellegarde’s comments. “The old way of doing things can’t work anymore,” he said. “I’m excited to be part of RESOLVE because it’s following a new concept.”

This new concept is Housing First, where people who are homeless are provided with homes first, and then provided with the supports needed to maintain their homes.

“We live in such a wealthy and beautiful country shared by our people, yet our people are often the ones who are damaged most severely,” Favel said, adding that he has seen the damage with his own eyes while on an inter-agency committee that discussed at-risk youth. “There was always a direct line to residential schools.”

Craig Hill, member of RESOLVE’s Cabinet, said the affordable and supported housing provided through RESOLVE is addressing this crisis. “The poverty rate for Calgary’s First Nations population is almost double the rate for non-First Nations. Our community must work together in unprecedented ways to change this as soon as possible.”

 

RESOLVE would like to extend a special thanks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, which generously dedicated their time, resources and staff to make this event a success, and to:

  • Speakers Elder Leonard Bastien, Chief Perry Bellegarde, Blaine Favel, Craig Hill and Chief Roy Whitney;
  • Presenting sponsors Suncor Energy and Calgary Foundation; and
  • Supporting sponsors Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Imperial Oil and Petroleum Services Association of Canada.