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This article was published 28/1/2009 (4865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Since aboriginals make up the fastest-growing segment of the city's population, the need for safe, affordable, adequate housing is rapidly escalating.
Yet virtually no new housing is being built or renovated to serve this desperately poor population. And the federal government is phasing out its funding, so that by the year 2020, its subsidies will disappear.
That's part of the stark picture painted in a hard-hitting new documentary, Winnipeg First Nation: Heart of a Home. The 52-minute film was created through a $14,000 grant from WITH ART, a public art program of the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) that matches artists with community groups to collaborate on projects.
The film, which was two years in the making, screens tonight at 7 at Cinematheque.
It will be followed by a panel discussion with director Jim Sanders, WAC public art manager Tricia Wasney and Maeengan Linklater, who appears in the film and is a former policy analyst with the Manitoba Urban Native Housing Association (MUNHA), the umbrella organization that partnered with Sanders on the project.
The 34-year-old Sanders, an independent filmmaker, is not aboriginal but has worked on several projects with the aboriginal community. He says Winnipeggers who never venture into slum-like neighbourhoods need to wake up to the reality unfolding there.
"It's a crisis that gets ignored and is unseen," he said in an interview. "I come from River Heights. For me, it was really important to see this part of Winnipeg that I didn't see growing up.
"The film exposes the real story of this city. Until this situation is healed or fixed, we're never going to have peace in this city."
The documentary has an activist slant, Sanders says. Interview subjects include homeless aboriginals, several who are living in precarious housing, and staff at agencies who describe the magnitude of the crisis.
Obstacles faced by aboriginals include not being able to provide rental references when they come to the city from a reserve; being forced by the child-welfare system to seek housing at age 16, yet being unable to get a lease; having to use food money to cover rent; and living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Though it is fact-based, the film uses aboriginal music and artworks, as well as evocative black-and-white photos, to lend a spiritual dimension to the story.
Sanders hopes Winnipeg First Nation: Heart of a Home will be shown in schools, have local community screenings and be accepted into human-rights film festivals. It will soon be posted on the Internet for free viewing.
Winnipeg First Nation:
Heart of a Home
Tonight at 7