To mark 20 years of the McConnell Foundation partnering to forward reconciliation work, we wish to honour our partners through the Reconciliation through the seasons spotlight series. On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we present the second edition.
The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission (FNQLEDC)
The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission (FNQLEDC), founded in 2000, supports and accompanies community economic development agents and organizations as well as the members of the First Nations for the successful completion of their private and collective socioeconomic projects. In 2022, McConnell partnered with FNQLEDC for its literacy financial project in collaboration with Aboriginal Savings Corporation of Canada (ABSCAN).
Housing shortage context
The housing shortage in First Nations communities – not counting the condition of existing housing – has been one of the most pressing issues for several years. In Quebec, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) has produced the most complete and reliable quantitative and longitudinal portrait of the situation based on data from communities. According to this data, 10,646 additional units would be needed within 15 years.
In the past ten years, it has become possible for community members to build, buy or renovate a house on a reserve in Quebec. Previously, it was next to impossible for an individual, living on a reserve, to have access to a mortgage and become a homeowner because of how the Indian Act limits property rights. Only in the last ten years or so have financial solutions been developed, making it possible for First Nations people living on reserve to obtain financing for the purchase of a house.
A recent phenomenon: property ownership on reserves
Many financial institutions and nonprofits offer financial literacy programs to people off reserve, but these supports for First Nations people living on reserve have been lacking. Yet the knowledge gained through these programs is of great help to those wishing to obtain a mortgage.
This is why the FNQLEDC, in collaboration with ABSCAN, is creating financial literacy workshops starting in the next few months across Quebec. The Centre of Expertise on Financial Literacy and First Nations Housing aims to put in place conditions conducive to housing development among First Nations by providing awareness, education and guidance activities.
Steve Laveau, in charge of community services at the FNQLEDC, believes that by offering specialized training adapted to community realities, more First Nation members will be able to consider becoming homeowners: “The Centre aims to raise awareness, provide tools and encourage access to homeownership – an essential vector for the economic vitality of Quebec’s First Nations communities.” A First Nations mobile team will offer training in financial literacy, housing literacy and home ownership.
Martin Légaré, ABSCAN’s Executive Director, explains how this partnership emerged from the experience of community members who wanted to buy a house but did not have the network or knowledge to support them in this process.
“There are people who are interested in becoming homeowners but need mentors to help them. Things that may seem obvious to off-reserve homeowners are not so obvious when no one around you has ever owned a home. Think about how to choose plans for a house, make a budget, research and compare prices with builders, get quotes for a plumber – these models were never possible on reserve. The Centre will help equip community members to make their dreams come true.”
As part of the project, there will be a mobile team led by Indigenous people meeting with communities and adapting training to their needs, on topics like personal finance management, housing financing, construction or maintenance. Personalized follow-ups are also planned to share knowledge about different types of housing options. The objective is to create a successful financial literacy training concept and scale it to other regions.
In addition to its on-the-ground interventions, the Centre will become a hub where First Nations stakeholders can find support and access tools and documentation on housing and financial literacy issues.
FNQLEDC’s latest flagship project
The FNQLEDC team is currently working on several projects. Among the FNQLEDC’s flagship projects is the First Nations Identification Logo, which is an official brand launched by the FNQLEDC to authenticate First Nations products and services. The FNQLEDC is also responsible for the deployment of Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous Peoples and Quebec, which was launched in November 2021 and aims to foster greater participation of Indigenous Peoples in the Quebec economy.
Cycles and Seasons: a word on illustrating reconciliation
In Atikamekw culture, there are six seasons. Pre-spring and pre-winter are seasons for preparation of what is to come next. Artist Eruoma Awashish’s work, illustrating our Reconciliation through the seasons series, integrates the sacredness of all seasons and intermediate seasons. Her art can help us to reflect on the journey of reconciliation. How do we prepare and plan for what is next: whether it is the winter coming or next year’s spring? Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities continue to grow together in our reconciliation journey. As we continue, we may confront issues that resurface in cycles. The seasons remind us of these cycles. They help us prepare to revisit and circle back to these complex issues.
Our Reconciliation focus area aims to address – and redress – the socioeconomic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples by building prosperity with and for Indigenous peoples.