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18CE - Whose Housing Crisis? Creating First Nations Housing

24 May 2018 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

1.5 ConEd Learning Hours

Current housing systems and policies for remote and isolated First Nations communities in Canada produce a physical manifestation of ongoing colonialism: the house. Indigenous families are in crisis as the housing system and federal planning policies have allowed for the provision of neither adequate nor appropriate homes for these communities. Different definitions of housing crisis by the government and the First Nations have shaped the understanding of home and the crisis in First Nations reserves today, but also provide insights into how positive change can occur.

How did we get here? Why do the houses look the way they do? Who defines the housing crisis in remote First Nations? Understand why the home is so significant in altering the lived experiences of remote First Nations, and how the house is the physical manifestation of Canada’s assimilative policies, as the presenter traces through history and through archival documents, including blueprints, to reveal the systemization of housing as a result of different definitions of housing crisis.

Importantly, the presenter will share how individual architects have used their agency in partnership with First Nations communities to work within the existing system and be critical in the creation of new housing typologies in culturally and environmentally responsive ways.

Learning Objectives

    1. Outline how the house has become the physical manifestation of colonialism in First Nations communities and how this is causing a crisis in First Nations Communities.
    2. Understand how the housing crisis is defined differently by the Federal Government and First Nations, and how understanding these definitions can help to design more culturally appropriate houses.
    3. Gain an overview of best practice Indigenous case study projects (both in process and built form) completed with Indigenous communities occurring today.
    4. See how architects can play a critical role in the reconciliation of Canada by working in partnership with First Nations communities.


Shelagh McCartney, DDes, OAA, MRAIC, LEED AP

Dr. Shelagh McCartney is a licensed architect and urbanist with a specialization in community development and housing. McCartney received her Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Bachelor of Professional Architecture degrees from the University of Waterloo, before attending Harvard University where she received a Master’s in Design Studies, Urban Development and Housing, and a Doctorate of Design. As a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard, McCartney’s research focused on exploring community-based housing solutions for American Indigenous people and comparing American and Canadian Housing policies. In the past year, she has spent five cumulative weeks in remote First Nations reserves. As an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, McCartney is committed to innovative teaching, developing within students a sense of responsibility and social-awareness, encouraging students to explore creative design solutions to the problems facing their world.