Mishtik: A housing project by and for First Nations in Roberval
The lack of housing in First Nations communities has been a well-known fact for a long time. However, this issue is not raised as much in urban settings. Yet, the consequences of the lack of housing in various communities are often that many First Nations members end up in the city looking for housing. The lack of affordable housing in many regions, over and above the discrimination First Nations members must often deal with coming from landlords, makes this search exceedingly difficult.
This is the case in Roberval, in Lac-Saint-Jean, where the Indigenous population represents 10% of the total population in 2016. More than half this population is less than 30 years of age and the composition of households is often numerous, therefore decreasing the number of accessible accommodations even more since the majority of what is on the market doesn’t have more than two bedrooms.
A culturally safe living environment
With this finding, the “Mishtik” project, meaning “tree” in Innu and in Atikamekw, was born. This building will offer 24 affordable housing units adapted to the reality of First Nations families. Almost all the units available would have three bedrooms or more. More than a simple housing project, Mishtik wishes to provide a culturally safe living environment for First Nations members. Among others, a community space is planned and intends to meet the needs of these members to come together and get involved in community activities.
The project is supported by the Corporation de développement des Premiers Peuples, which was created by the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Lac-Saint-Jean (CAALSJ) in partnership with the Council of the Atikamekw Nation and the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Saguenay. It is estimated that the building will be ready to welcome its first tenants in the summer of 2022.
Climbing to bring peoples together
Far from wanting to create an Indigenous “ghetto”, Mishtik’s aim is also to contribute to a rapprochement between peoples. It is in this spirit that the CAALSJ would like to develop a climbing centre in the common space. The social economy project, while generating independent income to be reinvested in the improvement of the quality of life for First Nations members in Roberval, aims to promote closer ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through the practice of a sport that is in full effervescence in Québec.
A recent survey prepared by the CAALSJ for their market study confirmed the popularity of climbing in the region: close to 90% of respondents having already practiced the sport said they would be interested in coming to an eventual climbing centre in Roberval. It must be said that, right now, Roberval residents must drive more than an hour away to have access to adequate installations. We have the same finding for respondents who have never practiced climbing: 98% of them said they were interested in trying this sport. According to Jean-François Gill, the Innu climbing instructor involved in the project’s development, the proposed installations will have no reason to envy the climbing centres in bigger centres such as Québec City and Montréal. “Our objective is to bring as many people together as possible in the practice of this sport, experienced as well as novice climbers, whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous.”
To learn more about the Centre d’amitié autochtone du Lac-Saint-Jean (CAALSJ), visit its Facebook page.
To discover other local economic development projects and initiatives, we invite you to visit our local economic development section.