Skookum Surrey’s innovative research approach has garnered attention in the 2022 Annual Report of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a federal crown corporation.
The report recognizes Skookum Surrey, the engagement arm of Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee (SUILC), for its comprehensive research methodology, which centers Indigenous knowledge and lived experience. By placing Indigenous communities at the heart of the research process, Skookum Surrey aims to tackle the housing crisis faced by Indigenous people living in the City of Surrey.
Oftentimes, research can be extractive. An extractive approach to research leaves Indigenous communities out of the loop about where their shared experiences will end up. However, Skookum Surrey’s emphasis on community involvement, through the Skookum Surrey Guide Group, ensures that knowledge production remains in the hands of the Indigenous community.
“It’s about taking back control over the production of knowledge and allowing our community to drive the process,” explains former project lead Sheldon Tetreault in the CMHC 2022 Annual Report.
In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, CMHC is dedicated to advancing reconciliation within the crown corporation, as stated in their Annual Report media release on May 4th. The report outlines CMHC’s commitment to enhancing their understanding of First Nation, Inuit, and Métis housing ecosystems through research projects aimed at informing housing transformation needs.
According to CMHC, Indigenous people in Canada face a more significant housing need compared to non-Indigenous individuals. Through our own research, supported by CMHC and the National Housing Strategy Solutions Lab program, Skookum Surrey has identified several barriers faced by Indigenous people in Surrey when accessing housing, including bureaucratic red tape, racism, high costs, and the absence of culturally safe housing.
Over the past two years, the research conducted by the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee and Skookum Surrey has shed light on the urgent requirement for deeply affordable housing to combat Indigenous child poverty and Indigenous homelessness in Surrey. SUILC’s report, titled “Finding Our Way Home,” reveals that 31% of Indigenous individuals in Surrey experienced homelessness during the 2020 Point-In-Time Count. Additionally, our research advocates for a Housing Call to Action, urging the development of 1,880 deeply affordable units, with 772 specifically designated for single-parent Indigenous families. Deeply affordable rent is defined as a monthly cost that does not exceed $649.
The research findings underscore the pressing need for more affordable, accessible, and culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous families, including those led by single parents. The research also highlights similar housing needs for Elders, young people, single adults, and multi-generational families.
The Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee has previously urged the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to coordinate and take immediate action to create deeply affordable housing in Surrey, both with and without support services. They have also called for the development and implementation of a strategy to enhance local Indigenous capacity for affordable housing initiatives.
Moving forward, one of CMHC’s goals for 2023 is to focus on federal initiatives aimed at improving housing conditions for Indigenous people in urban, rural, and northern areas. These initiatives are being co-developed in partnership with Indigenous stakeholders.