Public Policy: Decreasing the Number of Homeless Aboriginals in Montreal

Table of Contents


Aboriginal homelessness has become problematic in Montreal in the past few years. While there are policies in place to help address this issue, there seem to be many limitations related to the different jurisdictions of the Federal Government and the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Government, to the management of the funds and the source of the problem. While the amount of funds invested into redressing this social issue is important, social values are also important in creating viable solutions.

Therefore, at the core of this analysis are alternatives based on five different goals: social equity, empowerment/ownership, the maintenance of a viable non-profit sector, the number of homeless Aboriginals and the cost. With these alternatives which include the (1) status quo, (2) a better management of money, (3) synchronizing efforts and (4) increasing preventative measures are scrutinised.

On the basis of this analysis, it is suggested that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada implement a policy package that will increase preventative measures. This will not only allow reduce the number of homeless Aboriginals in Montreal in the long term, but it will also help reduce other overlapping social issues in the Aboriginal community.


Since the Aboriginal population in Canada has become increasingly mobile, many have decided to move away from the reserves. Although a large proportion of this shift of population is occurring between reservations and isolated resource rich areas, many Aboriginals are choosing to move to urban areas. However, there are too many homeless Aboriginals in these regions, particularly in Montreal. Hence, the Minister of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada submitted a policy analysis to answer the following question. Are the current federal policies enough to counter homelessness amongst Aboriginals in of Montreal?

Therefore, there will be an analysis of the situation and the underlying causes, the current political context, the new approaches to the issue, the policy goals, a comparison of the alternatives and finally the assessment and recommendation.

Before beginning, it is important to note a few methodological issues of this analysis. To begin, the quality of the data will most likely be the most difficult challenge to overcome. The two main data collecting agencies use different definitions of Aboriginal. The first agency in question is the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada (AANDC) which collects data on Aboriginal populations that are “Registered Indians and Inuits”[i]. The second agency is Census Canada which includes registered and self-identified Aboriginals whether that is North American Indian, Metis or Inuits”[ii]. This variation, in addition to the different years[iii] of collected data, makes it difficult to compare the different sets of data. Nevertheless, these sources do provide information that can help garner a better understanding of Aboriginal homelessness in Montreal.



There seems to be a disproportionate representation of Aboriginals amongst the homeless population of Montreal. In 2006 their population was of 17,870 which represented only 0.5% of the total population of the metropolitan area[iv]. At the same time, approximately 200 to 350 Aboriginals live in a “chronic homeless state”[v] and between 800 and 1000 are temporarily homeless within a year[vi]. Within the Aboriginal population some are more at risk than others. Inuit alone, represent only 10% of the Aboriginal population in the region, however, they represent 43% of the homeless Aboriginals of Montreal[vii].

Aboriginals are subject to the same risks as other homeless people however they also bring with them social issues that exist in their communities, such as substance abuse, violence and mental health issues[viii]. Generally, health and security are of major concern for homeless people.



The causes related to the levels of homelessness of urban Aboriginals are quite diverse. At first it is important to understand the demographic changes that have occurred in Canada. In the past decade many Aboriginals have decided to move away from the reserves that accounted for only 53%[ix] of the total population in 2005. Although a large proportion of this shift of population is occurring between reservations and isolated resource rich areas, many Aboriginals are choosing to move to urban regions[x]. Between 2001 and 2006 alone there has been a 60%[xi] growth of Aboriginal populations in Montreal. The consequences of these changes are economic, cultural, social and political.

Aboriginals tend to leave their communities to move into urban regions for many reasons but there are three that are more common. Many are seeking a higher education or training; some are accessing a better quality health care[xii], while others, especially women and young children, are attempting to escape domestic violence[xiii]. However, by migrating into urban regions they are also cutting themselves away from their traditional way of life as well as away from their important social ties[xiv]. The consequences of this on family structures are evident. In Montreal, 31% of women Aboriginals are lone mothers in contrast to non-Aboriginals at 16% in 2005. Further, 1 in 7 Aboriginals live in housing requiring serious repair[xv]. Again, on a social level, there are communication issues due to language barriers which makes it difficult to find the appropriate social networks to assist them and it also makes it more difficult for them to find employment[xvi]. In addition to this, Aboriginals in Montreal also face discrimination on the basis of their ethnic origins[xvii]. These factors lead to a social exclusion that puts them in a particularly vulnerable situation.

In addition to this, statistics indicate that there are economic disparities between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals in Montreal. In 2006, unemployment rates for Aboriginal were 1.4% lower than that for non-Aboriginals[xviii]. The median income gap was closing. However, it was still 19.2% lower than non-Aboriginals[xix]. The total income difference is also telling. Aboriginals earning an income under $20,000 are 7.8% higher than non-Aboriginals and Aboriginals earning over $40,000 are 8% lower than non-Aboriginals. In addition to this, Aboriginals tend to depend more heavily on government financial aid than non-Aboriginals[xx]. As can be seen, Aboriginals in Montreal are more vulnerable because of these economic and social inequalities. Nevertheless, there is another factor to take into consideration.

In Canada as a whole Aboriginals generally have a lack of political autonomy. In relation to homelessness this basically means that they have less power over their own lives and depend rather heavily on the State for basic needs such as housing. Much of what has been presented thus far has been demonstrated in an extensive work completed by Regroupement de Centre Amitié Auchtoctones du Quebec, which claims that:

Historical social policies have affected multiple generations of Aboriginal peoples. The severing of family and community ties – that is, creation of a homeless state – has left a legacy of traumatized individuals who may be unable to function in mainstream society. Left dependent on social instutitions, many Aboriginal peoples are unable to address their individual needs. The trauma of seperatino from family and community – the Aboriginal home – has affected the ability of individuals to achieve balance in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. When experienced by more than one generation, personal trauma becomes institutionalized within a family. Where multiply families within a community experience similar life events, the community is left without the resources required to effectively address the resultant social consequences[xxi].

That being said, there are many difficulties surrounding the governments capacity to meet the high demands of Aboriginals for housing in both urban settings and in the reserves[xxii]. This is largely due to the Indian Act that “keeps Aboriginal people at a lower level by forcing unequal status on them and by emphasising the role that the State plays in their lives”[xxiii]. All these factors lead to “urban wandering” in which some Aboriginals who have difficulty adjusting to the life in Montreal after moving away from their communities, culture and social ties. They also have difficulties finding a “stable and sustainable” place to live[xxiv].



Historical Policy Issues: Indian Act & Bill-C31

The lives of urban Aboriginal people have been significantly influenced by the Indian Act. In short, it “continues to perpetuate unstable and inequitable programming and delivery of support services”[xxv]. Bill-C31 was an amendment to the Indian Act to reduce discriminatory practices against Aboriginals, “to restore status and membership rights” and to increase Aboriginal self-governance especially in terms of self-identification[xxvi].

In relation to Aboriginal homelessness, there are some jurisdictional and coordination issues due to these different legal documents governing different Aboriginal identities. In this instance, Montreal Aboriginals who are not governed by the Indian Act, hence Métis, non-status and Bill-C31, are not governed by the Federal government but rather by the Provincial government and the Bands[xxvii]. The “buck passing” that occurs between the different levels of governance leads to difficulties in the transition from reserves where they have housing support to the city where they no longer have this type of assistance[xxviii]. Further, financial aid to counter homelessness can vary with the different status and is provided by different levels of government[xxix]. Aid on the street level is not always equitably distributed because of the lack of coherence in the governance of Aboriginals.

The most involved shareholders in the issue of Aboriginal homelessness in Montreal are at the federal, the AANDC and community level. The federal government’s role mostly consists of providing funds for its own projects and for that of community shareholders. The latter includes mostly community centers and shelters. Finally the AANDC is somewhere in between the latter two. On the one hand, it is closer to the community thus has access to more relevant information on Aboriginal communities and their strife for self-determination, while on the other hand it has limited jurisdiction of the different types of Aboriginal communities, thus making it difficult to have a significant effect on homeless urban Aboriginals.


Federal Initiatives

Homeless Partnering Strategy (HPS)

The HPS was implemented in 2007 as a preventative and corrective policy. Its main goal is to reduce the number of homelessness in Canada through partnering with different levels of governance and with community organisations[xxx]. An initial $269.6 million was invested into this partnership and then 134.8 million after its two year renewal from 2011 and 2012[xxxi].

The HPS is composed of three distinct initiatives: the Homelessness Partnership Initiative (HPI), the Homelessness Accountability Network and the Surplus Federal Real Property for Homelessness Initiative. Within the HPI, there is a specific component for Aboriginal communities[xxxii]. Further, preference is given to off-reserve Aboriginal individuals in each stream of the HPI[xxxiii].


Homelessness Partnership Initiatives: Aboriginal Communities

This subdivision of the HPI targets all Aboriginal groups, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and non-status Indians to provide them with “culturally appropriate” services in rural and urban regions[xxxiv]. However it should be noted that Aboriginals are also covered by the other streams of the HPI. Although there is no minimum, the communities requesting funds are encouraged to also contribute financially to the project. They must also demonstrate that there is a need for funds and that the funds will be specifically targeting Aboriginals[xxxv]. Logistic details are to the discretion of the community and may vary.


Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Initiatives

The Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP)

FVPP was put in place by the AANDC as a preventative measure to reducing family violence in Aboriginal communities on reserves[xxxvi]. However, the project also ensures a partial refund to provinces and to the Yukon for Aboriginals with a resident on reserve being hosted off-reserve. In the context of Montreal, the FVPP only covers Aboriginal reserve residents at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal since it is the only shelter for Aboriginals in the city with a mandate to protect its clients from domestic violence. As the name suggests, this shelter specifically addresses Aboriginal women. This is a very limited target population. Nevertheless, it is preventative in nature and can help reduce the overall homeless rates in the city. This is especially relevant for women who stay at this shelter with their children.


Community Initiatives

There are few shelters available for Aboriginal people in Montreal. It is important to take note of them since they are directly involved with homeless aboriginals. Nevertheless, their role mainly deals with addressing the symptom – homelessness – and not the actual cause. This is mostly due to lack of overall funds rather than lack of interest.


Projet Autochtones Quebec (PAQ)

The PAQ is a non-profit organisation that works at the community level to assist First Nations, Métis and Inuit in the province of Quebec[xxxvii]. Its main mandate is to provide housing for members of this population in difficulties. It manages the only shelter for both men and women Aboriginals in the city of Montreal. The shelter offers one meal, showers, a laundry mat, the internet and a bed to its clients[xxxviii]. Although the shelter hosted mostly First Nations four years ago, it now has majority Inuit men demographic[xxxix]. At present, this shelter lacks funding and must be relocated into another building due to health concerns. The area of choice, Villeray borough, has been rejected by its mayor who claims a relocation of the shelter can “bring unwanted crime and social problems to the neighbourhood”[xl]. Needless to say, its current situation, and that of the 300 clients it helps every year, is precarious[xli]. If the PAQ cannot maintain their activities, there will be an increase of Aboriginal homelessness in the city which will create a more pressing issue.



The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

Another very important shelter provides assistance to Aboriginal women and their children is the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Despite the smaller target population than that of the Projet Autochtones du Quebec, this shelter has remedial and preventative projects. The remedial projects include their “In-House Programs” which helps their clients become more autonomous and the “Holistic Health Project” which attempts to assist the already homeless with their needs[xlii]. The preventative projects includes the “Welcoming Fire Outreach Program” which allows outreach workers to visit Aboriginal women who are at risk of becoming homeless to provide them with resources, referrals, workshops and other services to help bridge the cultural gap (ex. escorts to health services).


A few recurrent themes with the current policies governing Aboriginal homelessness include but are not limited to, mismanagement of resources, lack of coordination between federal and community initiatives, lack of empowerment of Aboriginals and a lack of focus on the source of the problem. For that reason, the alternatives brought forward will attempt to knead solutions to these shortcomings into the Montreal Aboriginal homelessness policies. The first two will be alternatives at the institutional level while the third will be at the organisational level.

Better Management of Money

Although the HPI and the Homelessness Partnership Initiatives: Aboriginal Communities both provide funding for Aboriginal homeless projects, the most important shelter for Aboriginals in the most populated city of the province of Quebec has an issue with funding. Granted other Canadian cities must also be in need of such fiscal resources, there should not be a drop in funding during a period in which the Government has invested $400 million to address the problem. Hence investing more money might not be the solution. Rather, to whom and where the money should be invested is primordial.

First, it should be suggested to divert some of the budget from those who are not directly involved with homeless Aboriginals in Montreal to those who are directly involved with them. This would give move fiscal power to PAQ and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. The outcome of this for the PAQ is that they will perhaps be able to find another location to maintain their services that respects a more expansive budget. Further, this will also allow them to hire an in-house case worker without depending on public solicitation for donations. In the case of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, they will have the opportunity to intensify and extend both its preventative and corrective projects – thus having a direct impact on number of occasional temporary homelessness and chronic homelessness.

Second, clients should be encouraged to participate in the establishment of sustainable projects[xliii]. Not only will this give some level of ownership of these projects to Aboriginals, but it will also ensure that the most successful and helpful projects are maintained. This means that funds will be directed more efficiently. It also shows that their welfare is taken seriously and that long-term solutions are being sought. This can forge new partnership with the most important shareholders, Montreal Aboriginals, by fostering trust.

Third, those who are directly involved with homeless Aboriginals in Montreal must collect more data[xliv]. Although this will be more time consuming, data collection can in fact help us better understand why there are so many homeless Aboriginal and which communities they are coming from. This will require both quantitative and qualitative data. Eventually, general trends can help us address the root causes instead of the symptoms.

Synchronizing Efforts

The lack of coordination between the different levels of decision making manifests itself and several different ways. Due to the different jurisdictions between the Federal Government and the AANDC a good portion of the target population is not receiving aid that could potentially help break the cycle of homelessness or prevent it altogether. This is currently the case for male aboriginals who do not qualify for the FVPP in Montreal. Thus, shelters that host them do not receive as much financial aid as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

First, there should be a shift in the assessment and monitoring processes by focusing less on the quantitative data and more on the qualitative data. This change should change the relationship between the federal that merely signs off the cheque assuming that the more money the better the results. To do this the government will need to reduce its focus on quantitative data. The community shareholders already have access to the qualitative data so this can bridge the gap between all parties involved by allowing them to open dialogue and discuss how each actor, with their own resources, can counter the problem. The focus is then no longer how much is given to whom but also why and how that money can efficiently improve that particular situation.

Second, the jurisdiction of the AANDC should be extended to aboriginals who are not residents of reserves. The reason why this is important is that it will close some of the holes in the system that fails to protect many aboriginals who are at once in an unfavorable situation because of their geographic and cultural origins while also being overlooked because they no longer hold residence on reserve. This will also help alleviate some of the financial burden on shelters such as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal that can only receive compensation for homeless Aboriginal women who still hold their residence on reserve.

Third, research should be encouraged on the subject matter both in academia and at the bureaucratic level of the government. Although the causes of the problem are multiple, the lack of official governmental reports on the issue does make it more difficult to identify the problem which clearly makes it difficult to make explicit efforts to overcome it.

Increasing Preventative Measures

Aboriginal homelessness in Montreal, as for other regions, is a symptom of a much larger problem. Some of the most common reasons why some Aboriginals have decided to leave their communities includes, but is not limited to, a desire to seek higher education or training, a need to access medical services and especially in the case of women and young children, an attempt to escape domestic violence. These must all be seriously considered when looking at long term solutions to this problem.

First, there should be awareness campaigns in Aboriginal communities of the dangers of substance abuse. This can be integrated into the formal education system at a low cost while reaching to a young population before they start to participate in risky behaviour. It can also be delivered through the media, however, at a higher cost. If presented correctly, the health implication and the increase risk of violent behaviour can be merged into one dialogue. This would attack two very important causes of domestic violence which in turn will affect Aboriginal homelessness in Montreal.

Second, there should be an improvement in health care access for Aboriginals. This would require looking at health issues that go beyond alcoholism since many members of these communities visit cities such as Montreal for general health concerns[xlv]. However, the focus should also be on providing a detox program[xlvi] within or nearby their communities. This could help break the cycle of homelessness in the city and help prevent domestic abuse which leads to city migrations. Moreover, this would allow them to access essential care within or near their communities, thus empowering them by reducing their dependence on external aid.

Third, there should be work-shops and/or information sessions in Aboriginal communities that can help them better prepare for a visit or a move to the city. This can include valuable resources such as where to go for assistance searching for housing and jobs and who to call for assistance. Having this information before hand could help prevent temporary homelessness once they are in Montreal.


Aboriginal homelessness in Montreal demonstrates quite a few issues with the relation between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. For instance, the cultural gap between the two makes it more difficult for Aboriginals to find employment or to hold positions with a higher pay. At the same rate, the relationship between aboriginal people and the state is also disadvantageous for the former. The lack of political autonomy has indeed led to a certain level of dependence for housing. Further, the different jurisdiction of the Federal Government and the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has left many loopholes in which funding opportunities for social programs and shelters are lost. In this case the Aboriginal Women’s Shelter of Montreal’s that is eligible to be partially reimbursed by the FVPP for the hosting of Aboriginal women with residence on reserve but this does not apply to aboriginal people who have off-reserve residence.

For these reasons, it would only seem fair to analyse the issue of aboriginal homelessness while paying special attention to the following criteria.

  • Social Equity. That will be measured in terms of having a positive, negative and neutral affect. In the first instance, a positive effect would mean Aboriginals have an increased equality with non-aboriginals. A negative impact would mean they that they policy has put them at a disadvantage relative to their current situation. Finally, neutral signifies that the policy in question has no noticeable impact on the equality of Aboriginals to their counterparts. There are two different types of equity that will be measured:
    • Equality of opportunity. Increasing equality of opportunity represents social values that will allow aboriginals in Montreal to have access to better jobs which will decrease their risk of becoming homeless.
    • Equal access to social services. This is particularly important both for preventative and remedial measures. In the first instance, it will decrease the need for using shelters as a last resort. In the second instance, it will allow the target population to break the cycle of homelessness.
  • Empowerment/Ownership. This will be measured in terms of high, medium and low. High levels of empowerment/ownership means that the target population has gained significant ownership in the projects that that would be implemented in relation to the status quo. Medium means that they have gained a little more control. This would be the case if the AANDC gained more jurisdictions however the individual homeless aboriginals are not more involved. low means that the target population has gained some autonomy that might be indirect, for instance, if the obtain the right to have more independence in the allocation of their budgets at the community or AANDC level. There are two different types aspects to empowerment / ownership:
    • Social. Allowing homeless Aboriginals in Montreal to self-appropriate a certain level of ownership to the projects that directly and in some cases, indirectly affect them is crucial to finding viable and sustainable solutions.
    • Economic. Allowing projects for homeless Aboriginals in Montreal to have access to more funds or to have more liberty to decide where the funds will be invested.
  • Maintenance of a viable nonprofit sector. Positive, negative and neutral will be used to qualify this goal. If there are not enough human and capital investments in the nonprofit housing sector, the target population will be directly affected. However, the rest of society will also share the burden and suffer the consequences[xlvii]. Hence positive will be used for any substantial change at the organizational level that would help maintain shelters. Negative will be used for any changes that can harm this sector. While neutral will be used for policies that do not affect the survival of the sector.
  • The number of Homeless Aboriginals. The ultimate goal of each alternative is to reduce the number of homeless Aboriginals in the city of Montreal. Hence, we must take this quantitative criterion into consideration. This can be achieved both through preventative and remedial means however no distinction will be made between the two. Quite simply, the terminologies increase, decrease and stabilised will be used in relation to the status quo. For instance, if the policy offers no changes in the number of Aboriginal homeless people in Montreal, the term stable will be used.
  • Cost. Although this analysis is not a strict cost- benefit analysis, it is important to take into consideration the required capital investments to reduce the number of aboriginal homeless people in Montreal. High, medium and low will be qualifying this impact. High means the AANDC or the Federal government will need to invest considerable amount of money into the project. Medium means either will need to invest a little bit more. Low means either will have minimal expenses to make in order for the policy to be implemented.


Status Quo

Social Equity. Equal opportunity and equal access to social services must have been somewhere at the heart of the current policies. However there seems to be a lack of synchrony between the federal level and the community level. While the former is investing more money, the latter is suffering more. Hence, it can only be assumed that both equal opportunity and equal access to social services for the target population has a neutral or negative impact.

Empowerment/Ownership. The impact of the economic and social ownership alike would be medium to low since the AANDC does have some measure of control over projects that specifically address homeless aboriginals in Montreal. But the population that they are assisting through the FVPP is very limited.

Maintenance of a Viable Non-Profit Sector. The failure to adequately fund the PAQ has resulted in a lack of services and is even causing difficulties in their relocation. Perhaps the status quo was sufficient before their legal health issues. But now there is need for an increase in aid right away. The impact is thus neutral to negative.

Number of Homeless Aboriginals. Under the status quo, it seems like the number of homeless aboriginals is slowly increasing especially with the Inuits[xlviii] that are increasingly over representing the homeless population in Montreal[xlix]. Therefore, the impact on the number of homeless aboriginals in Montreal is causing an increase.

Cost. Although the current cost is high, it is difficult to determine exactly how the money is being invested. The amount of money invested does not seem to be the issue. Rather, how the money is invested must be an important factor in this assessment.

Better Management of Money

Social Equity. The overall goal of this alternative is to increase the target population’s access to shelters. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that they will have a better access to social services unless efforts are made through the shelters to provide their clients with this option. On the other hand, an increase in funds going directly to the shelters rather than passing through a different institutions that would not be able to have a direct impact on the services provided in the shelters could allow them to continue to invest in social services that would help break the cycle of homelessness. Those services typically include advisors that can help the homeless find employment and housing. That being said, there would be a positive effect on the increase of equal access to social services. If this step is successful, there would also be an increase in equal opportunity since having a home and employment will allow aboriginals to have more social, professional and economic opportunities like their counterparts.

Empowerment/ Ownership. There is a high level of social empowerment/ ownership in this alternative since the target population will be directly involved in the project. Allowing them to share their input on the work done in the shelter will give them a sense of accountability and control of their future. As for their economic empowerment, the impact will be medium since the more direct funding to the aboriginal shelters will give them more flexibility in terms of how they manage a larger budget.

Maintenance of a Viable Non-Profit Sector. The impact of this alternative will be positive on the maintenance of aboriginal shelters in Montreal. Diverting some of the budget directly to the institutions that work with the target population will is actually crucial to the survival of the PAQ[l] – the most important Aboriginal shelter in Montreal.

Number of Homeless Aboriginals. If we consider the data provided earlier that indicated that between 200 and 350 aboriginals live in a chronic state of homelessness throughout the year and 800 and 1000 temporarily live in homelessness throughout the year[li], preserving a shelter such as the PAQ would mean helping somewhere around 300 of those homeless people[lii]. Although the numbers are significant, it is difficult to determine whether cutting the middle man would allow the PAQ to increase the number of homeless people they help.  Hence, the impact of this alternative on the number of homeless aboriginals in Montreal would be to decrease-stabilise since the alternative, the status quo, would send those 300 people back in the streets.

Cost. One of the goals of this alternative is to keep the cost of assisting the target population low by using the same budget differently. Thus the impact will be low.

Synchronizing Efforts

Social Equity. This alternative would not necessarily increase equality of opportunity and equality of access to social between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. Nevertheless, it will increase equality between on reserve resident and off reserve resident of homeless aboriginals in Montreal. It will also have the effect of increasing the social equity between men and women. This is because there is naturally an imbalance with who can have access to the two main shelters for the target populations in Montreal. Women, granted their particular situation is extremely relevant, are potentially eligible to seek temporary housing with a shelter in the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal or the PAQ. Whereas men have do not have this option within the aboriginal shelter network. For this reason, the impact for equal opportunity and access to social services will be positive for amongst Aboriginals and neutral between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.

Empowerment/ Ownership. This alternative would increase the ownership of the projects at a medium level for both the economic aspect and the social aspect since it would give the AANDC more jurisdictions in the affairs of Aboriginal people regardless of their reserve status.

Maintenance of a Viable Non-Profit Sector. The goal is that through different methods assessment and monitoring processes, the two different governments, the Federal and the AANDC, which allocated funds for these projects will be able to open dialogue to make sure funds are going to the right people. In addition to this, the increase of research would allow them to make more enlighten decisions. In the end this will have a positive impact on the maintenance of a viable non-profit sector.

Number of Homeless Aboriginals. With the new qualitative data on the target population in addition to the increase cooperation between the Federal Government and the AANDC should not only contribute to a decrease in homeless aboriginals in Montreal but it should also help prevent homelessness amongst this group. Thus there would be a long term decrease in the number of individuals in the target population.

Cost. The shift in assessment and monitoring by focusing less on the quantitative data and more on the qualitative data would have minimal cost attached to it. However, funds would need to be allocated in the form of grants in order to encourage research in the field. Nonetheless, this cost in comparison to the funds already invested into the HPI, is low.

Increasing Preventative Measures

Social Equity. One of the central goals of this alternative is to increase equality of opportunity and access to social services. For the latter, it manages to do this by attempting to increase health care services in or at least near Aboriginal communities so they can have at least the basic quality services that drive many of them out of their communities and towards urban regions. This would have a positive impact on access to social services. In terms of equality of opportunity, mending the problem of homelessness from the source prevents more Aboriginals from becoming homeless in the first place. This will in the short term and the long term allow them more opportunities comparable to non-aboriginals. Hence the impact would also be positive.

Empowerment/ Ownership. Because much of this alternative starts from within Aboriginal communities (on reserve), it gives them the upmost control of their affairs. In this instance, the governance of homeless aboriginals will start with awareness campaigns against substance abuse and for those already using, it will provide them with adequate detox programs. Reducing substance abuse in these communities is not only beneficial for reducing homeless aboriginals in Montreal but it is also useful for empowering these communities from within. This will create high levels of social and economic empowerment.

Maintenance of a Viable Non-Profit Sector. Due to the preventative nature of this alternative, the non-profit sector of shelters will not reap much benefit except for the fact that the number of their clientele should drop. Furthermore, if the status quo is maintained for this sector, chances are that it might suffer considerably because of the lack of funding. The impact of this alternative will then be neutral to negative on the sector.

The Number of Homeless Aboriginal. As just mentioned, the non-profit sector would most likely suffer a little under this alternative. There is a risk that about 250 to 300 aboriginals benefiting from the services of the PAQ would have to a different temporary housing[liii]. On the other hand, in the long run, there should be less homeless aboriginals under this alternative. For that reason, it can be assessed that the impact would be a slight increase in the number homeless aboriginals in Montreal in the short term but with a decrease in the long term.

Cost. This is by far the most high in cost alternative in the short term. The expenses necessary to introduce such a policy would require a lot of justification towards the general public that would want to know why it is so important to crease the quality of health care services in Aboriginal communities. However, this can be presented as an effort that goes beyond reducing aboriginal homelessness in Montreal since the overall benefit is extensive. For that reason it may also be regarded as reducing the cost of Aboriginal homelessness and other Aboriginal social issues in the long term.


Table 1.1 illustrates the analysis of the four different alternatives, status quo, better management of money, synchronizing efforts and increasing preventative measures all of which have its strength and weaknesses.

Summary of Aboriginal Homelessness Alternatives in Terms of Policy Goals

As for the Status Quo, it just does not seem to be keeping up with the current difficulties faced by the shareholders involved in helping homeless aboriginals in Montreal. The money is there but it is not being properly invested. On the other hand, the alternative that suggests synchronizing efforts can help reduce the number of the target population does not have enough impact. While it is great that there is to increase equality amongst aboriginals, the goal was also to increase equality between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. A more efficient management of money shows some potential. It has a low cost with positive effects on social equity and it is even capable of decreasing or stabilizing the number of homeless.

In the end, the most sustainable solution seems to be to increase preventative measures. It is particularly interesting because although there might be an increase in homelessness in the short term, there will such a reduction later on that the need to sustain aboriginal shelters is reduce while the number of clients using its services simultaneously decreases. Moreover, this alternative’s potential overlap in other public policy implementation involving Aboriginals can add credibility to justifying a significant investment in their communities. One shortcoming worth mentioning is the time that it would take to implement. Several years and even decades may be needed to see results. Nonetheless, with the high levels of ownership, the concerned population will be able to adjust the program in accordance to the changing circumstances much better than the Federal Government has been in the past few years.


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Karmis, Dimitrios & Linda Cardinal. (2009). Les Politiques Publiques au Canada : Pouvoir, Conflits et Idéologies. Québec : Les Presses de L’Université de Laval.

Menzies, Peter (PhD). (2009). “Aboriginal Homelessness Intergenerational Trauma.” Center for Addiction and Mental Health. .

Menzies, Peter. (2009). Homeless Aboriginal Men: Effects of Intergenerational Trauma. In Hulchanski, J. David; Campsie, Philippa; Chau, Shirley; Hwang, Stephen; Paradis, Emily (eds.). Finding Home: Policy options for Addressing Homelessness in Canada (e-book), Chapter 6.2. Toronto: Cities Center, University of Toronto.

Myles, Brian. (2005). “ Le Tiers-Monde au bout de la rue: Les vies oubliées des sans-abri autochtones”. Le Devoir. .

Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. “We Provide Aboriginal Women and their Children a Safe and Supportive Environment.” Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. .

Projets Autochtones du Québec. (2004). « Mission ». .

Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec. (2008). “Brief Concerning Urban Aboriginal Homelessness”.

Rogers, Sarah. (15 April 2012). “Montreal aboriginal shelter staff recall happier times: About half of clients at shelter facing closure are Inuit”. Nunatsiaq Online. .

Sider, Deb. (2005). “A Sociological Analysis of Root Causes of Aboriginal Homelessness in Sioux Lookout, Ontario”. Published by The Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Sponsored by Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee And Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre.

Siggner, Andrew J. (2003) “Urban Aboriginal Populations: An Update Using the 2001 Census Results”. Newhouse, David & Evelyn Peters. (Ed.), Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples. Canada: Government of Canada Policy Research Initiative.

Statistics Canada. (2009a). “Table 8: Median income and distribution of total income of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people 15 years of age and older with income, Montréal, 2005”. .

Statistics Canada. (2009b). “Text table 1: Unemployment rates for people aged 25 to 54 years, by Aboriginal identity group and sex, Montréal, 2006”. .

Turner, David, Sharon Goulet, Nelly D. Oelke, Dr. Wilfreda Thurston, Alanah Woodland, Cynthia Bird, Jack Wilson, Cindy Deschenes and Mike Boyes. (2010). Aboriginal Homelessness: Looking for a Place to Belong. Calgary: The Aboriginal Friendship Center.

Webster, Andrews (2007). “Sheltering Urban Aboriginal Homeless People: Assessment of Situation and Needs”. National Association of Friendship Centers in collaboration with the Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg. .

[i] Barsh, p.2, 1994

[ii] Hoban, 2009

[iii] Barsh p.2, 1994

[iv] Hohban, 2009

[v] Webster, p.163, 2007

[vi] Myles, 2005

[vii] Idem

[viii] Menzies, p.30, 2007

[ix] Karmis & Cardinal, p.213, 2009

[x] Idem

[xi] Hohban, 2009

[xii] Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec, p.9, 2008

[xiii] Idem

[xiv] Idem

[xv] Hohban, 2009

[xvi] Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec, p.10, 2008

[xvii] Idem, p.11, 2008

[xviii] Statistics Canada, 2009b

[xix] Statistics Canada, 2009a

[xx] Heisz p. 14, 2006

[xxi] Menzies 2009 in Turner et al., p.12, 2011

[xxii] Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec, p.10, 2008

[xxiii] Idem, p9, 2008

[xxiv]  Idem, p.8,  2008

[xxv] Turner et al, p.3, 2010

[xxvi] Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1995

[xxvii] Turner et al, p.4, 2011

[xxviii] Idem

[xxix] Idem

[xxx] Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), 2010

[xxxi] HRSDC, 2011b

[xxxii] HRSDC, 2010

[xxxiii] HRDSC, 2011a

[xxxiv] Idem

[xxxv] Idem

[xxxvi] AANDC, National Social Programs Manual, p. 25, 2012

[xxxvii] Projet Autochtones du Québec, 2004

[xxxviii] Rogers, April 15th, 2012

[xxxix] Idem

[xl] Idem

[xli] Idem

[xlii] Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, 2012

[xliii] Sider, Deb, 2005, p.116

[xliv] Idem

[xlv] When they cannot afford the cost of housing for these trips, some become temporarily homeless. Temporary homelessness is the most common type of homelessness amongst Aboriginals in Montreal.

[xlvi] Sider, Deb, 2005 p.120

[xlvii] For instance, research conducted by British Columbia Housing (2001) has demonstrated that there is a positive correlation between homelessness and the rates of crime.

[xlviii] Rogers, April 15th

[xlix] Myles, 2005

[l] Rogers, April 15th

[li] Myles, 2005

[lii] Rogers, April 15th

[liii] Idem









Historical Policy Issues: Indian Act & Bill-C31  

Federal Initiatives   

Homeless Partnering Strategy (HPS)   

Homelessness Partnership Initiatives: Aboriginal Communities 

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Initiatives    

The Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP)          

Community Initiatives      

Projet Autochtones Quebec (PAQ) 

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal   


Better Management of Money  

Synchronizing Efforts  

Increasing Preventative Measures 


COMPARING ALTERNATIVES                                                                                      

Status Quo   

Better Management of Money

Synchronizing Efforts 

Increasing Preventative Measures 



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