A reserve residences is a type of housing specifically designed for First Nations people living on reserves. These homes typically have one or more bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas. Some have additional features like fireplaces, patios, and balconies.
These homes are often located in isolated locations where services are limited or not available. For example, there may not be any electricity, water or roads.
Despite these hardships, many people living on reserves still maintain their Aboriginal way of life. They continue to speak their languages, practice their culture and celebrate their traditions.
Residential school programs and discriminatory legislation have exacerbated the problems that many reserve communities face today. They have also contributed to the resurgence of a modern, non-Aboriginal, Canadian society that many Aboriginal Canadians find difficult to accept.
As a result of this, many reserve governments are struggling to maintain adequate incomes and social services. In turn, they have found themselves increasingly dependent on federal funding and assistance to survive.
In recent years, many of Canadas 630 First Nations have been subject to intervention by the federal government as a result of financial difficulties. These types of interventions are called recipient-managed, whereby Ottawa requires a reserve government to implement a remedial financial plan.
Some First Nations leaders have criticized the government’s involvement in their finances, arguing that it has caused them to miss out on opportunities for self-reliance and development. Others have advocated for a move towards fee simple lands, or privately owned lands that would not be under the control of the Crown.
These issues can be complicated and involve several facets of social, economic and environmental concerns. As a result, the government must work to ensure that a variety of different factors are addressed in order to achieve long-term success.
There are a number of programs, including income assistance, that are designed to help Aboriginal people living on reserve maintain their basic needs. These include:
On-Reserve Income Assistance (ORAI)
ORAI is an income assistance program that provides funds to assist members of First Nations on reserve to maintain their daily living costs. It is a last resort, and recipients must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to receive it.
The ORAI program is provided in conjunction with Indigenous Services Canada and is part of Canada’s social safety net.
In addition to these support programs, many communities also rely on community-based organizations that provide social and cultural services, such as health care, education, employment, child care, and legal services.
Some of these organizations provide services in their own buildings, while others use facilities on the reserve. Regardless of where they provide these services, the main goal is to support and strengthen a community.
A large portion of reserve communities are economically struggling, and are unable to maintain their housing costs. This is often due to limited access to mortgages, small business loans or lines of credit that are more readily available to non-Aboriginal Canadians.
Similarly, the cost of maintaining the land on which the reserve is located can be prohibitive. It is frequently the case that government rights-of-way intersect the reserve’s lands, reducing useable space. These restrictions also impact the ability of band members to access natural resources, such as fish or timber, that they might otherwise be able to harvest.