Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal asks Prime Minister Trudeau to fund housing project

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In a speech to the United Nations last September, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke of Canada’s poor treatment of Indigenous peoples, highlighting the “human-rights crisis” of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and pledged concrete steps toward reconciliation.

Now Nakuset – the director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) – is taking Trudeau at his word.

At an April 30 press conference in Montreal, she reached out directly to Trudeau, asking that his government fund a major housing project that has been in the works for over a decade.

Since 1987, the NWSM has provided shelter and support to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women in difficulty and their children, by offering in-house programs and services as well as outreach services that help in the healing process.

Nakuset says the new 30-unit project would help women coming to the end of their stay transition to a more stable living situation.

“This program is second-stage,” says Nakuset. “First stage is emergency. Once these women have gotten over their crisis, and they’ve gotten a little bit more stable, and they’re wondering where to go next, that’s where this fits in.”

The project – which the NWSM is developing in partnership with the Montreal community-housing group Bâtir son quartier – will principally be made up of studio apartments. Yet the project also aims to provide several two- or three-bedroom units to help women with children meet youth protection requirements, and to help keep families together.


“Trying to find that next apartment is hard,” Nakuset says. “We want to give women a place where they can have three bedrooms, so they can have their children back, and then they can work on themselves.”

The building would include a garden and a communal living space, and provide access to NWSM staff such as therapists, psychologists, an addictions worker, a family care worker, and an Elder.

“This way we’re really setting them up for success. So when they walk out that door because they’re moving out, they’re ready to go. That’s reconciliation, and that’s what I’m hoping the prime minister will help us with.”

The federal government notably set aside just under $5 billion in new spending for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and communities in its budget last February – of which $144 million is pegged for housing – over the next five years.

Nakuset says that the wheels are already in motion for the project, with a location selected, architects on board, and zoning permits soon to be acquired.

Yet some budget allocations have not secured the necessary funding, which is why Nakuset sent an email directly to Trudeau with a request for $6.75 million to help finalize what she calls an “incredibly ambitious” project.

“If Justin Trudeau is going to go to the UN and say that he supports Indigenous people, then he should really support us,” she says. “There’s no guarantee, but if you don’t try you’ll never know. Now we’ll see what he does, or doesn’t do. The ball is in his court.”

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