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Housing needs top of mind in Sheshatshiu as PC Leader Ches Crosbie tours Labrador towns

Chief Eugene Hart of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation stands beside a portrait of his grandparents, Mary Pasteen and Michel Pasteen, in his office in Sheshatshiu. The portrait was painted by Innu artist Mary Ann Penashue.
Chief Eugene Hart of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation stands beside a portrait of his grandparents, Mary Pasteen and Michel Pasteen, in his office in Sheshatshiu. The portrait was painted by Innu artist Mary Ann Penashue. - David Maher
SHESHATSHIU, N.L. —

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie spent one day in Labrador, but got to see some key areas in the Big Land in desperate need of help.

Crosbie and Lake Melville candidate Shannon Tobin toured Sheshatshiu and neighbouring North West River on Thursday.

Tobin, whose opponents on May 16 are Liberal Perry Trimper and independent Jim Learning, has worked at the Sheshatshiu First Nation Band Council for the last three years.

Chief Eugene Hart of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation noted that Liberal Leader Dwight Ball did not visit the community during an earlier campaign stop in Labrador.

But the issues in Sheshatshiu have nothing to do with which party decided to stop by.

“There’s 140 families waiting for homes to live in, to live on their own, rather than having 14-15 people in one house,” said Hart.

“It’s a lot of overcrowding. They’re three-bedroom homes. If you want to raise a healthy family, you need a healthy home. Not an overcrowded home,” said Hart.

Roughly 2,000 people live in Sheshatshiu, he said.

“There’s 140 families waiting for homes to live in, to live on their own, rather than having 14-15 people in one house." — Eugene Hart

One woman, towing her grandson in a wagon through North West River, estimated as many as 80 babies were born in the area recently.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 225 private households in the area in 2016. Of those, 105 contained five or more people, or 46 per cent of the community. For the rest of the province, just 4.6 per cent of private homes have five or more people.

Last year, 32 new homes were built in the community through the band’s own funds, with five more to be completed this year. That’s the most homes built in the community in a year in its history, according to Hart.

But Hart says 40 homes every year for the next five years are needed to catch up to the backlog of families waiting for homes.

Hart says the federal government is primarily who helps with housing in the community, but resources are spread thin.

“It’s more the feds, but they can’t commit to you, is the problem. There’s probably $20 to $50 million in the budget. But that’s for the whole of Canada. That’s not just for Labrador or Newfoundland,” he said.

“Once that’s sort of divided out, at the end of the day, there’s nothing.”

Government funding for houses in Sheshatshiu is needed, says Hart, because otherwise the Innu Nation Band Council would have to co-sign for new houses in the area.

Sandra Solomon was orn in Nain, but lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She's not planning cast her ballot in the coming election — she says too many promises have been broken in the past.
Sandra Solomon was born in Nain, but lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She's not planning cast her ballot in the coming election — she says too many promises have been broken in the past.

“There’s the (Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation) that we can get loans from, but it doesn’t work that way,” he said.

“We can’t co-sign for every house in the community. We’d go bankrupt in a month.”

Elsewhere, Sandra Solomon was born in Nain, but now lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She finds it hard to stay in touch with family and friends living further north, due to the distance and unreliable internet.

Solomon says she just doesn’t see the point of voting anymore.

“I haven’t voted in the past or now just because a lot of things were promised by these people. I don’t see any change right now, so I don’t know the reason why everyone else should vote when nothing is being done,” said Solomon.

“It’s not towards any particular person that’s running. I don’t have anything personal against them. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to waste my time voting when a lot of things were promised in the past.”

On Thursday, Crosbie re-announced a plan to offer 100 per cent reimbursement for medical travel expenses to everyone in the province, including out-of-province travel.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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