More Housing for Several First Nation Communities

OTTAWA, ON, December 21, 2011 — John Beaucage, Chair of the First Nations Market Housing Fund (the Fund) announced today that citizens of St. Mary’s Band in B.C., Champagne and Aishihik First Nations in the Yukon, and Mississauga First Nation in Ontario will be able to benefit from new housing financing options. All three First Nations have chosen to work with the Fund and have been approved for backing through the Fund’s Credit Enhancement Program. Mr. Beaucage also announced today that Valley First, a division of the First West Credit Union, has been approved to offer loans to First Nations in the area of British Columbia that Valley First serves.

“It is exciting to see how many First Nations are embracing the housing options that the Fund offers,” said Mr. Beaucage. “This is wonderful news for the citizens of these First Nations that are committed to creating opportunities for their citizens and to strengthening their communities with the support of the Fund. Our goal is to ensure that each of these First Nations is equipped with the tools needed to implement and sustain market housing programs that really work on their lands.”

These First Nations will use the Fund to help their citizens buy or build homes on their communal lands. They will also offer citizens the chance to renovate their homes with access to loan financing at competitive rates. Mr. Beaucage noted that the vision of the Fund is that every First Nation family has the opportunity to have a home on their own land in a strong community.

Chief Cheryl Casimer of St. Mary’s Band said “St. Mary's Band is pleased to see that the Government of Canada is taking the initiative to make housing a priority in First Nation communities. With the assistance of the Market Fund much needed improvements to existing homes can take place as well as the opportunity to construct new homes so desperately needed.  St. Mary's Band also recognizes this initiative as an opportunity to work in partnership with Canada to make Article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a reality.”

Mr. Beaucage also noted that Champagne and Aishihik First Nations is the first community in the Yukon to sign on with the Fund. "This is a major step toward building self-reliant citizens and communities for Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN),” said Chief James Allen. “With the Fund’s backing, CAFN can realize its long-standing Strategic Plan goal for homeownership by citizens on our Settlement Lands.”

“The Mississauga First Nation appreciates this new opportunity and is looking forward to working with the First Nations Market Housing Fund as an important tool to assist in our goal to help our people become more self-sufficient,” said Chief Reg Niganobe. “As one of our top priorities, this initiative will allow our administration to build on prior successes of land and resource development on all of Mississauga First Nation lands."

Mr. Beaucage commented that the announcement of a new lender in B.C. is another great sign of progress for First Nations in that region. “Valley First has a long-standing tradition of supporting and strengthening the communities it serves,” says Paulo Araujo, Valley First’s senior manager, retail credit. “Our partnership with the First Nations Market Housing Fund is a further step toward strengthening the Kamloops area, specifically by helping to make good housing a reality for the Kamloops Indian Band.”

The Fund is an innovative initiative established by the Government of Canada, through Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), to give First Nation members greater access to housing loans on reserve and on settlement lands, where appropriate. The $300 million fund became operational in May 2008.

To date over fifty communities have chosen to work with the Fund, an innovative initiative established by the Government of Canada through CMHC to give First Nation members greater access to housing financing and build stronger communities through capacity development funding. More than $125 million in housing loans has been planned for financing in 20 of the communities approved to date for the Fund’s Credit Enhancement program.

In addition to Valley First, the Fund has attracted several financial institutions to provide loans to First Nations including BMO Bank of Montreal, Peace Hills Trust, Desjardins, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Envision Financial and Affinity Credit Union.

For more information, please visit the Fund’s website at www.fnmhf.ca.

Media Contacts:

Deborah Taylor
First Nations Market Housing Fund
613-740-9931

Michelle Shortridge
St. Mary’s Indian Band
250-426-5717

Terry Rufiange-Holway
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations
867-634-4219

James Cada
Mississauga First Nations
705-356-1621

Backgrounder

St. Mary’s Indian Band

The St. Mary’s Indian Band or Aq’am is a member community of the Ktunaxa Nation and is made up of four reserves totaling roughly 18,420 acres or 7,461 hectares and has the largest land and population base of the other Ktunaxa Nation Bands. The Band is situated 5 kilometers from the city of Cranbrook in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia.

Band members are employed in fields such as local government, hospitality service, construction, transportation, tourism, forestry, and various other entrepreneurial activities. The Band Council consists of a Chief and four Councilors all of which are elected through the Band's own election by-laws. The St. Mary’s Band Administration operates a range of diverse program and services including the Aqamnik Elementary, Aqamnik Daycare, Aqamnik After School and Summer Program, Community Education Services, Community Health, Economic Development, Housing and Administrative functions which are centralized at the Band’s Administration Building.

The community’s infrastructure investment plan includes new housing and the development of a 77 unit serviced lot sub-division. The Housing Department is striving to build energy efficient and environment friendly housing that is available to all Band Members. The First Nations Market Housing Fund will assist the St. Mary’s Band in achieving the goal of creating new housing by supporting capacity development building in areas such as governance, financial management, and community commitment. The Fund will also provide the Band with the opportunity to secure financing for construction on-reserve. One of the reasons why First Nations such as St. Mary’s finds it difficult to find adequate financing for the construction of housing is due to the provisions under the Indian Act which limit seizure of property on-reserve making mortgage security unavailable. The use of the Fund will make it easier for its members to access housing loans on reserve, to purchase and/or renovate existing homes, and to build new homes.

The vision of their Ktunaxa ancestors, through their traditions, customs, language and beliefs continues to guide the people and a new framework of accountability and strategic long term planning will also secure the future of their children.

Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) is a self-governing First Nation located in the southwest Yukon and northern British Columbia. CAFN’s Constitutional right to govern its land, people and resources was confirmed with the signing of the CAFN Final Agreement with the governments of Canada and Yukon in 1993.

Of the Yukon’s fourteen First Nations, CAFN is one of the largest with a membership of more than 1,100 people. Its Traditional Territory covers 41,000 square kilometres, 29,000 of which are located in the Yukon and 12,000 in British Columbia.

The homeland of CAFN is a land of great natural beauty and biological richness. It is a land of steep mountains, surging glaciers, fast flowing rivers, rolling tundra plateaux and forested river valleys. Much of Kluane National Park & Reserve (Yukon) and all of Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (B.C.) lie within CAFN’s Traditional Territory.

CAFN was named after two of its historic settlements: Champagne, located on the Dezadeash River; and Aishihik, situated at the headwaters of the Alsek River drainage. Formerly, the Southern Tutchone population was located throughout the region in seasonal villages including Kloo Lake, Klukshu, Canyon, Shäwshe and Hutshi. Today, CAFN has permanent communities in Haines Junction, Canyon, Champagne, Aishihik, Klukshu and Takhini River, and provides housing to about 118 families.

The main CAFN administrative office is located in Haines Junction, and the First Nations also maintains a busy office in the territorial capital of Whitehorse.

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations government is actively working to strengthen and enhance its traditional Southern Tutchone language and culture, and to support Citizens in improving their quality of life.

This progressive self-government intends to improve living conditions and pride in their communities by working with the First Nations Market Housing Fund to increase homeownership and renovate existing houses.

CAFN Vision Statement:

We, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people and our government, shall promote a healthy, unified and self-reliant people, while conserving and enhancing our environment and culture.

Mississauga First Nation

Mississauga First Nations (MFN)also known as Mississauga River #8 is located along Hwy 17, 348 km west of the city of Sudbury and 278 km east of the city of Sault Ste Marie. It is adjacent to the Town of Blind River situated along the North Shore of Lake Huron.

The MFN employs 97 full and part time employees within all of its service departments. The FN has a member population of 1,120 and approximately 450 living on-reserve. Blind River is considered its major service centre for government offices, education, hospital, recreation, tourism and hospitality and local industries such as the CAMECO uranium refinery.

The MFN through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Misswezahging Development Corporation promotes economic and business development at the MFN. The MFN owns Chiblow Lake Lddge (year round tourism business), 35 private properties, a newly built Sports and Cultural Complex, and an Elders Housing Complex. There are also private businesses, owned and operated by individual Band members.

The Mississauga First Nation, Mississagi Trust and the Misswezahging Development Corporation work together for the future of their lands for long term use and to work towards a common goal of promoting better living conditions within the community.

There are 163 homes in the community, with a waiting list of 125 and the majority of homes are Band-owned, rent-to-own and CMHC rental units. With the prospect of positive economic growth and additional lands, the Mississauga First Nations believes that the First Nations Market Housing Fund will help to go a long way towards providing more options to its members to build, purchase and renovate homes in the community that are affordable, energy efficient and enviromentally friendly.

Valley First Credit Union

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 37 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. First West has approximately $6.2 billion in assets under administration, 167,000 members and 1,300 employees.

Since establishment in 1947, Valley First has continued to forge lasting relationships that allow it to contribute to the financial strength and sustainability of its members and the communities it serves.