Remarks on Squamish Nation Housing Project
Of course, before I begin, I want to say that we’re still monitoring the situation in Saskatchewan. It’s important that everyone continue to follow the instructions from local authorities. The federal government is working closely with the community leadership and with the province; we need to make sure that everyone stays safe and that we resolve this as quickly as possible. I spoke with chiefs a couple of days ago, I spoke with—yesterday—I spoke with the Premier. We’re going to continue to be there while people grieve, while people heal, but right now while they’re also very fearful. All Canadians stand with people in Saskatchewan at this time.
Of course, today it is so good to be back home in B.C., a place that has always meant so much to me, so many good memories of my time here. The number of times I’ve crossed this bridge without realizing the gem and the opportunity that we’re about to be launching today. I know this is something that is going to have a huge, positive impact on so many levels and being able to be here today to be part of this announcement is truly a highlight for me.
This positive announcement with the Squamish Nation will have a real impact on the people who live in Vancouver, because everyone should have a safe and affordable place to call home. When I speak with Canadians across the country, housing availability and pricing remain one of the primary concerns.
So, if we want to create more… if we want to create more affordable housing in Canada, we need to increase the housing supply.
To increase housing supply, our government has laid out a multi-layered plan to double our housing construction over the next decade. With the Housing Accelerator Fund, we’ll incentivize municipalities to remove barriers and build housing more quickly. With the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, we’ve investing to encourage people to think outside the box as they come up with projects that’ll change the housing industry, like a number of rent-to-own projects that we’re moving forward on. And of course, with the Rapid Housing Initiative, we’re building new, affordable units extremely quickly, and converting existing buildings to create housing for vulnerable populations that need them now, not a few years from now.
These are only a few examples, and of course there’s much more work to be done. What gathers us here today is yet another stream of work this government has set up, which is the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, which is designed to accelerate and incentivize the creation of mid-market rental housing to take the edge off of the supply challenges that so many people are facing as they’re trying to get into the market.
Particularly for renters here in Vancouver, it’s tough to find a place. The rental market vacancy rate is very low. We need to work together to provide more housing options for people, and that’s what brings us here today.
Through the RCFI, we’ll provide a loan to build close to 3,000 homes as part of the Senákw project here in Kitsilano, in collaboration with the Squamish Nation.
Construction has already begun on the Senákw project. Its architecture and style will create a lasting cultural heritage for the Squamish Nation and for Canada.
This housing building will be land that has been reclaimed by the Squamish Nation after having been expropriated more than 100 years ago. Senákw will be operated and owned by the Squamish Nation, and will welcome members of the community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
This project is the largest First Nations economic partnership in Canadian history. Initiatives like these are reconciliation in action, and I know that ministers Miller and Hajdu, and our whole team, agree that it’s part of our vision for a better future for everyone.
We’re also very pleased to say that Senákw aims to be Canada’s first large-scale net-zero housing development.
The fact that a project of this scale can be carbon neutral demonstrates that sustainable design is not a luxury but the new norm. This project will set the standard for the future.
And I want to thank particularly Minister Wilkinson, who’s been working very closely with partners towards this ambitious goal.
Our government’s priority is to deliver real results for Canadians.
Today, we’re building more homes for Vancouverites. At the same time, we’re partnering with the Squamish Nation on its path to continued economic independence and self-determination, and we’re designing a green housing that will serve as a blueprint for the future. In other words, when everyone works together to accomplish multiple goals, everybody wins.
So I want to, again, thank members of the Squamish Nation for making this possible. I also want to thank Westbank Corp—Ian, good to see you here today—and OPTrust. When we all work together as partners—federal and Indigenous governments, private sector, local communities—we innovate and we find solutions to challenges we face. Let us continue working together; let’s continue making Canada a better place.
Before I finish, I want to highlight this morning’s news that Health Canada has authorized Héma-Québec’s submission to abandon the three-month deferral period for all men who have sex with men. As Canadian Blood Services announced in April, Héma-Québec will also start screening donors based on sexual behaviour, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In 2015, we promised to put an end to the discriminatory blood donation ban for men who have sex with men. Since then, our government has invested in several research projects to come to today’s decision and the one made in April. This is another step in the right direction: for all Canadians to be able to donate blood safely without discrimination. This is good news for everyone.
As we work every day to build a better, more inclusive Canada in which every Canadian has a real and fair chance to succeed, partnerships like this, initiatives like this, will make a real, real difference.