Montreal’s ombudswoman described homelessness experienced by Indigenous people in the city as a “humanitarian crisis’’ in a report released Wednesday.
Nadine Mailloux conducted a six-month investigation into the living conditions of homeless Indigenous people in the city’s central Milton Park neighbourhood, following complaints by citizens about violence, drug trafficking and prostitution in the area.
Mailloux said the homeless who are living in the district, particularly the Inuit, are suffering “intolerable human distress.’’
Her report denounced a lack of accountability and collaboration between Montreal authorities and outside organizations to improve the situation and offer appropriate services.
“There are no resources in Montreal specifically dedicated to the Inuit community, despite the fact that it is different from other Indigenous people; they are far from their home communities and families, with a different language and culture,’’ Mailloux wrote.
Despite the city’s promises to improve its relationship with Indigenous people, Mailloux’s investigation revealed what she called “a flagrant lack of planning’’ by the city to address homelessness and housing resources. “We find it surprising that in December and January, these measures were still in their initial phase,’’ her report said.
“Two years into the pandemic, its impact on homeless services was well-known,’’ she added. “Also, winter and its deep freeze come around every year.’’
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said the report highlights the need for the city to have more money to address the issue.
“When it comes to homelessness, the city helps to find places. I say we help, but we don’t necessarily have the financial means,’’ Plante told reporters. “It remains the Quebec government’s responsibility.’’
The Milton Park district has become over the years a gathering place for a group of Indigenous people without homes, especially since the relocation in 2018 of the Open Door shelter to the
By Virginie Ann
The Canadian Press