Impact of Housing Insecurity - Introductory Essay


The following essay provides a brief introduction on the effects caused by housing insecurity and poor quality housing, with attention paid to the disproportionate impacts for Indigenous peoples (see bibliography below):

The result of one hundred and fifty years of colonial government oppression has been the large number of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) who live in poverty at levels below the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off). Indigenous peoples have been systematically disadvantaged by frequently being given the least productive reserves and farmland, being hindered by the pass system from selling the products of their labour, to work away from reserves for extended periods of time without losing their status, road allowances which kept Métis people impoverished, and the denial of economic and political self-determination due to paternalistic government policies. The cumulative effects of these and other assimilative government policies has been barriers to socioeconomic instability including unemployment, inaccessibility to education, poor health outcomes, addictions, and lateral violence.

Inaccessibility to affordable housing is fundamental to understanding these disparities, and creating access is imperative to establishing equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. Limited access to safe housing is something that affects multiple and frequently overlapping populations: immigrants, people with disabilities, working class people, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, people with addictions, people who have criminal records, youth who do not live with a parent/guardian, the elderly, queer and transgender people, single parents, and of course, people who are unhoused. In their pre-budget submission to the Department of Finance in 2003, the Assembly of First Nations noted, “The lack of quality housing contributes to social problems such as child poverty, suicide, low educational attainment, alcoholism, and family breakdowns” (Barnsley 2003).

Incidentally, aforementioned factors of poverty, unemployment, educational inaccessibility, lateral violence, and addictions are frequent experiences of those caught within the Canadian criminal justice system. This underscores the necessity for adequate and affordable housing for Indigenous peoples, and others who are prevented from it due to the value placed on ‘whiteness’ or lack thereof (“Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients” 2004, 2; La Prairie and Stenning 2003, 187).

Indigenous peoples in comparison to white settlers, statistically, are significantly more likely to experience trauma due to systemic factors such as the experience of racial discrimination in employment, education, policing, and acquisition of services/resources. Often, Indigenous peoples experience racial discrimination causing barriers to resources and services; this not only has immediate effects on a person’s state of wellbeing but may prevent them from accessing support in the future due to fear the discrimination will happen again. Example, an Indigenous single mother applies for a house rental, but she is denied during a viewing and the property owner is racist towards her. Going forward, the fear and anticipation that something will happen could prevent her from reaching out to support services, going places, applying for housing, etc.

For Indigenous persons trying to get out of poverty, they may experience a lack of financial resources or assistance in urban and rural areas, accompanied by increased policing in Indigenous communities (e.g.: the neighbourhoods of Riversdale and Pleasant Hill in Saskatoon have higher police surveillance than Evergreen or Avalon; according to former Judge Harold Johnson, northern Indigenous communities experience a high presence of RCMP surveillance). One example is existing provincial programs such as Social Housing, which have long waiting lists and are insufficiently equipped to accommodate the number of people in need. According to Campaign 2020, “For children in First Nations families, the poverty rate in 2016 was 49.4 per cent. Among those families indicating they were Métis, 28.4 percent were in low-income households.” (Campaign 2000, Saskatchewan Child and Family Poverty Report, 2020). As of 2021, over one quarter or 26.1% percent of children within Saskatchewan live under the poverty line, the highest representation of these come from single-mother households (Global News,, 2021).

Individuals living in poverty who are able to find housing may be limited to options that are overcrowded, or in poor repair. Young members of these groups may not have a sufficient number of safe spaces to spend their time, as community organizations and safe spaces that do not require money have limited funding, staff, and operating hours (e.g.: libraries, community halls and centres, EGADZ, shelters, The Lighthouse). For many of these community organizations, sobriety is mandatory for admittance creating another barrier to safe spaces for youth and adults. These difficulties can combine to create an overall sense of stress and frustration in surviving within urban surroundings, and in struggling to financially survive. The lack of support and resources can contribute to criminal justice system contact / re-contact. That is to say, the cumulative effects of settler colonialism and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous lands resulting in impoverished conditions leads to a higher rate of Indigenous peoples in contact with the criminal justice system. (“Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods” 2004, 12; Newhouse 2003, 245; Trevethan 2003, 195).




  • “Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Aboriginal People and Housing: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Saskatoon Habitat for Humanity.” Prepared by Katriona Hanna and Lori Hanson. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Post-Secondary Student Housing: Research Summary.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Statistics at a Glance.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2010.
  • “Affordable Housing and Home Ownership: Business Case Development for the Saskatoon Market.” Prepared by Erin Foss, Research and Communications Assistant, Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, Bridges and Foundations Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “A Time for Action: Aboriginal and Northern Housing.” Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Ottawa: House of Commons, 1992.
  • Barnsley, Paul. “The legacy of inadequate housing.” Windspeaker, 0834177X, Dec2003, Vol. 21, Issue 9.
  • Belanger, Yale D., Gabrielle Weasel Head, Alu Owosoga. “Housing and Aboriginal People in Urban Centres: A Quantitative Evaluation.” Aboriginal Policy Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2012): 4-25.
  • “Final Report.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “First Nations Housing in Saskatoon: A Survey of Cress Housing Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Fisher, Linda and Hannele Janetti. “Aboriginal Youth in the Criminal Justice System.” In Issues and Perspectives on Young Offenders in Canada, ed. John A. Winterdyk, 237 - 255. Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company Canada, 1996.
  • La Prairie, Carol and Philip Stenning. “Exile on Main Street: Some Thoughts on Aboriginal Over-Representation in the Criminal Justice System.” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 179-193. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Migration and Mobility Between Reserve and City: A Survey of Whitecap Dakota/Sioux First Nation Residents in Saskatoon.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Affordable Housing Program Survey of Band Members”. Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Housing Committee. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. 2004.
  • Newhouse, David. “The Invisible Infrastructure: Urban Aboriginal Institutions and Organizations.” In In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 243-253. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • Pfefferle, Brian. “Gladue Sentencing: Uneasy Answers to the Hard Problem of Aboriginal Over-Incarceration.” Manitoba Law Journal Vol. 32, No. 2 (2008):113-43.
  • “Residential Urban Reserves: Issues and Options for Providing Adequate and Affordable Housing.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Roach, Kent and Jonathan Rudin. “Gladue: The Judicial and Political Reception of a Promising Decision.” Canadian Journal of Criminology Vol. 42, No. 3 (July 2000):355-388.
  • “Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Siggner, Andrew J. “The Challenge of Measuring the Demographic and Socio-Economic Conditions of the Urban Aboriginal Population.” In Not Strangers in these Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 119-130. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Summary and Analysis of Bridges and Foundations: CURA.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Survey of Urban Housing Needs of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Trevethan, Shelley. “Is there a Need for Aboriginal-Specific Programming for Aboriginal Offenders?” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 195-200. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “The FSIN-Province of Saskatchewan Gaming Partnership: 1995-2002.” Partnerships in Urban Aboriginal Housing Projects: A Theoretical Perspective. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “The Health Effects of Housing and Community Infrastructure on Canadian Indian Reserves.” Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991.
  • “Urban First Nations Residential Development Manual.” Prepared for Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Bridges and Foundations Project by Jess Chhokar. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.





Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people


Indigenous survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking, community activists, and scholars document that coercion and deception are means of forcing Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into survival sex work. In Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is considered a significant part of the transit corridor used within the Prairies to expedite trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous peoples. Notably, sex trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous people in Canada is so pervasive that it has not only received international news coverage (CNN - Canada's Stolen Daughters, attached Resources), the Canadian government has received international criticism from the U.S. government and United Nations, and national organizations, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Survivors of sex trafficking, community advocates and scholars have discussed factors which increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into trafficking. Experiences of abuse/violence; limited supervision; substance use/misuse; proximity to foster care; educational absence on information related to sexuality, contraception and pregnancy, models of healthy platonic and romantic relationships; overall lack of access to education; familial and communal residential/day school attendance, intergenerational trauma; housing insecurity and/or a lack of rental history; unemployment and job insecurity; a lack of culturally-appropriate support services (mental and spiritual health, medical, etc.); an absence of support networks (family/friends); having resided in a rural, northern or other isolated area where there may be a lack of infrastructure such as sewer, electrical or water services; lacking access to basic necessities for survival; and gang involvement. Many, if not all of these factors of vulnerability are linked to the settler colonial policies and beliefs which continue to oppress gender marginalized peoples.

In the aforementioned CNN Article "Canada's Stolen Daughters," Diane Redsky, who runs the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg (a Centre which engages in anti-trafficking advocacy work and runs a healing lodge) was interviewed. She commented:  "We're still in a society that targets Indigenous women and girls. In fact the national task force concluded that there's a market for Indigenous girls" (par. 28).

The psychological and physical impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking are described in the literature review and analysis released by the Native Women's Association of Canada, titled, "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls":

"What can be gathered from looking at the span of the above statistics, both the 2005 and 2011, is that there is a solid continuation of traumatic and damaging experiences that Aboriginal women and girls experience both prior to being trafficked and in the life of being trafficked for sexual acts. Unfortunately, experiences of violence, various forms of abuse, and trauma seem to be very consistent and prevalent within human trafficking. One of the defining characteristics of Farley et al’s research is the examination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in prostituted and sexually trafficked women. PTSD consists of three types of symptoms: persistent, intrusive re-introducing of trauma; numbing of responsiveness and persistent avoidance of stimuli of trauma; and persistent autonomic heightened arousal. Those who participated in the study completed an evaluation of criteria for PTSD. In a 2005 paper examining prostituted and trafficked women, out of the one hundred participants, including both First Nations and non-First Nations, 72% qualified for PTSD, which is 'among the highest reported in populations where PTSD has been studied, including battered women, combat veterans, childhood trauma survivors, rape survivors, and torture survivors' (Farley, Lynne, & Cotton, 2005, p. 255) . Those who are prostituted and sexually trafficked often experience extreme and intentional violence, abuse and torture. It is no surprise that these women and girls fulfill the criteria for PTSD. Such evidence suggests the difficulty of trying to move on from sexual exploitation, trafficking, and prostitution. It is a deeply traumatic experience that impacts on one’s physical self, the mental, and the emotional" (pages 10-11).

This excerpt from the Globe and Mail contains the testimony of a sex trafficking survivor as to the long-lasting impacts of PTSD in terms of her ability to function:

"But even if there is no physical evidence, illness and violence are so pervasive that, eventually, “trafficking will produce a health consequence,” says Tara Wilkie of the Surrey Memorial forensic team. Patients are provided with support after leaving the hospital, but Ms. Wilkie says the after-effects of trafficking can leave someone with lifelong physical and mental-health issues. Bridget Perrier seems to be living proof of this. As she sits on the couch of her Toronto home, phone buzzing, two dogs scampering around, pictures of her children on the wall, her old life seems like the distant past. Yet, she says, a decade of sexual exploitation “damaged me to a point where ... I have panic attacks. I have PTSD. I can’t have a baby naturally because my cervix is just shot. I sleep with the lights on. I’m hypervigilant. And there are flashbacks. “Sometimes a smell will set me off, gagging.” Pine-Sol, used to disinfect the rooms, “triggers it.” As do “certain male colognes, certain deodorants.” Also damaged: her relationship with others. She says her clientele was so predominantly white that, even today 'I can’t be on an elevator with a Caucasian man'" (pars. 85-90).

Regarding solutions for recovery from post-traumatic symptoms, including PTSD, the Native Women's Association of Canada literature review and analysis notes:

"Many who are sexually exploited and trafficked come from backgrounds where formal education and job skill development have been compromised from traumatic childhoods and growing up in abuse. To help these women and youth escape the cycle of sexual exploitation, they need training in viable alternatives for income. It is not enough to protect women and girls from pimps and traffickers; the conditions of growing up in poverty and without a full education must also be addressed for lasting difference" (page 25).

Bluntly put, one participant phrased it aptly: ’People don’t heal overnight. It took seventeen years to get all the shit inside of you and it’s probably going to take twenty years to get it out of you’ (p. 36). Quick-healing regimens are unrealistic. Healing takes time, and sexual exploitation is a violent, oppressive, and damaging process. In a 2003 study on sexual exploitation with some 854 participants, their findings were that prostitution was multi- traumatic, with 68% meeting the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (Farley, et al., 2003, p. 34), which, also happens to match the same range of PTSD as combat veterans (Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993, as cited in Farley, et al., 2003, p. 37). If prostitution is categorized as choice and trafficked as forced, it may be that trafficked women are dealing with even more PTSD." (page 29).



Gender discrimination and sexualization of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, Transgender and Non-Binary people, is deeply embedded in the foundation of Canadian policy, society, and consciousness.  That is, stereotypical gendered narratives were constructed by colonizers that depicted Indigenous peoples as morally inferior and culturally uncivilized - including a predisposition to extreme sexuality (this was the underlying rationale for gender segregation in the Indian Residential School system). 

Settler Colonists viewed Indigenous 'sexuality' as a threat that needed to be subdued, and another area in which they could assert dominance and control over Indigenous agency. Early on in the period of Contact with Europeans, Indigenous women, much like the "virgin" soil of North America, were perceived as available for possession by white, European men. These tropes of availability, in combination with stereotypes which constructed Indigenous women as exotic and erotic, asserted that Indigenous women were incapable of consenting (always available to the Colonial sexual appetite) and therefore inherently inviolable.

In addition to social marginalization enforced through colonialism, narratives construct Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people as sexually disposable which creates a significant degree of proximity to violence.  Aforementioned experiences of social marginalization include, but are not limited to: the mass apprehension of Indigenous children by child and family services, low-income caused by isolation from resources, cultural activities and lifeways, and economic discrimination, housing insecurity, employment insecurity, and limited access to education.  

Annette Sikka, in the conference paper "Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada," writes:

"..[T]he terms 'control' and 'exploitation' have been interpreted by the justice system in the context of trafficking offences also do not adequately reflect the types of coercion and exploitation that Aboriginal women or girls in street-based sex work face. It has been difficult to have the criminal justice system recognize non-physical forms of coercion in trafficking analyses because the criminal law focuses only on the immediate actions of individuals." (220).  

Actors within the legal system frequently lack a sufficient understanding of the ways in which gender-marginalized Indigenous peoples experience coercion and deception.  This serves to reinforce individualistic narratives which depict participation in the survival sex work as a matter of personal choice to participate in a "high-risk lifestyle." Yet it obscures elements of social and political marginalization which pressure gender-marginalized people into survival sex work. E.g., coercion or deception by others (the promise of money, protection, security, or substances).

This is not to say that sex workers or sex work is inherently violent or deviant, nor should sex workers be criminalized. Rather, that the social, gendered, sexual, and financial inequities established by Canadian settler colonialism have enabled traffickers to take advantage of the precarious social and economic situations many Indigenous women, girls, and other gender marginalized people find themselves in. Trafficking and exploitation is driven by the desire to fulfill settler sexual fantasies and maintain oppressive power structures.





Living Conditions on La Ronge Reserve - 1950s-70s


In the interview included, participant Liora Salter reports that she observed that the living and social conditions on the reserve in centre of the La Ronge townsite were extremely deteriorated. Ms. Salter describes the lack of infrastructure on the reserve for basic utilities including sewer, electricity and water provisions. She notes that the houses on-reserve were "the oldest generation of Indian Affairs houses" with one room and newspaper serving as wallpaper. Incidentally, Ms. Salter references Metis activist and La Ronge resident Jim Brady's suspicions that the Department of Indian Affairs officials in La Ronge was deeply corrupt, and incapable of enacting the type of change that was needed.

Ms. Salter also references Mr. Brady's concerns that Indigenous girls, as young as thirteen, were being forced into sex trafficking. The interview with La Ronge resident Verna Richards provides first-hand testimony of the occurrence of sex trafficking. While Ms. Richards believes that she observed this as an isolated incident, the reporting of Mr. Brady indicated otherwise - and it is possible that sex trafficking occurred in locales other than Ms. Richard's restaurant. Mr. Brady stated that this was a result of the tourism industry in La Ronge.

Ms. Richards also testifies as to the prevalence of sexual assault of Indigenous girls and women by American tourists who visited the community of La Ronge. She reports that there were a number of pregnancies that resulted from these assaults. She reports that this was met with little response from both the non-Indigenous community and the parents of the girls who were assaulted and/or became pregnant. She does not mention anything about post-assault psychological support/trauma services or other mental health services in the community. Nor does she mention any of the American tourists providing child support.

There may be many factors contributing to the disparities in living conditions in La Ronge in the time frames referenced in these interviews. The isolation of Northern Saskatchewan results in its invisibility to voters in larger city centres, such as Saskatoon and Regina. As well, the majority of the province is non-Indigenous, and historically, racism has affected the visibility of and concern for Indigenous issues within Saskatchewan. That is, racist colonial attitudes depict Indigenous peoples as resistant to acquiring 'improved' material conditions. Indigenous people who choose to live in remote areas such as Northern Saskatchewan are constructed under this colonial narrative as resistant to processes of integration/assimilation and modernity. Mr. Brady also referenced the presence of corruption within the representation of the Department of Indian Affairs in La Ronge, prohibiting the improvement of living conditions. Insufficient housing and a lack of access to infrastructure services such as electricity, sewer and water (all of which are considered standard services for residents of Canada) can effect psychological and physical well-being, over time the effects of substandard housing and healthcare can negatively impact a person's well-being in all areas of their life.

The lack of response amongst non-Indigenous residents of La Ronge demonstrates the normalization of sexual violence inflicted upon Indigenous women, stemming from stereotypical patriarchal colonial narratives which construct Indigenous women as being highly sexual and thus always sexually available to the colonist. As well, it is possible that the economic stimulus provided by the presence of American tourists was perceived as more valuable than preserving and protecting the well-being of Indigenous women and girl as community members. The profound sense of violation and trauma that result from assault and rape can severely impact one's ability to function, particularly if mental health supports or social/community supports are unavailable. For example, long-term impacts can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, difficulty relating to others, low self-esteem, alcohol/drug misuse, etc. (please see the entry by the Native Women's Association of Canada below in attached resources titled "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls: Literature Review and Key Informant Interviews: Final Report"). In areas where mental health services are non-existence or rare, other coping mechanisms that pose a danger to health may be utilized.

For further information on the impact of colonialism as it relates to construction of gendered stereotypes of Indigenous women and girls and how this contributes to sexualization and exploitation, please see the entry on sexualization of Indigenous girls in foster care. Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  

Sub Event
Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Girls in La Ronge following the introduction of American Tourism

Discrimination Against Metis Women in Northern Saskatchewan


Metis women from La Ronge and area in Northern Saskatchewan were respondents interviewed by Doris and Irene Poelzer for their study on Metis women's experiences in their home-communities. Numerous respondents reported discrepancies in the types of work available for men and women. They also reported discrepancies in the wages of men and women, with men being paid more for the same work. For example, these respondents stated that the types of jobs available for women were those that restricted them to traditionally feminized work, such as caregiving/nurturing, feeding, serving or providing instruction. That is, although job opportunities are scarce in the northern part of the province, those that were available for women were typically concession work, cleaning, health-related, teaching and clerical. These women believed that they had the same intellectual capacities as men, and that they should not be restricted (Poelzer 1985, 21-22).

One stated, “Women need training for jobs...I don’t want women to have the kind of life I had before” (Poelzer 1985, 23).

There was also a need expressed for support from one’s community and romantic partner. For example, women who ran for public office positions such as the school board believed that they were discriminated against because of their gender, and thus received few votes. In another example, women found that men refused to take instruction from them because of their gender. Overall, some respondents felt that men ignored, underestimate or exploited their Metis female co-workers (Poelzer 1985, 24-26).-

Metis women in Poelzer’s study also spoke extensively on the impact of religion in their life and the community. This impact was construed as both positive and negative. One respondent noted, “The church has been so much a part of exploitation”, as it provided a variety of services including education, health, employment and welfare. However, this also provided church officials with a great degree of control over the community, in which they took advantage of their privileged position by humiliating some individuals and also keeping community members dependent and indebted to their services. For example, individuals in the community must be church members in order to access services (Poelzer 1985, 27-36).

As well, women as a demographic are more likely to live in poverty and are often perceived to be primarily responsible for child-rearing. The financial burden resulting from poverty and raising children often results in a greater degree of reliance on these services. Metis women in the communities surveyed noted that church control was exerted by shaming women who practiced family planning or separated from a violent spouse. They also noted that they would be shamed for living common-law, even though some women declared that cohabitation gave them a greater degree of control, equality and autonomy than marriage.

One woman described the social pressure (resulting from the internalization of Christian moral norms) this way:

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell (them) that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

Another woman reported a more direct form of religious pressure: “...The church feels that if you are living common-law, you are not following the religion...marriage is quite a big thing” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

In contrast, Metis women respondents reported that common-law arrangements allowed for an easier separation if men were discovered to be immature or abusive. They also reported that such an arrangement prevented male romantic partners from perceiving his wife as property, that is, of possessing rights of ownership over her body or labour. An arrangement of cohabitation, therefore, was perceived to prevent domestic violence as well as prevent men from becoming jealous or of forgetting their household responsibilities.

Overall, women who received social services through the church were made to feel obligated to meet the expectations of religious officials by adhering to their moral and purity ideals (Poelzer 1985, 31-49). 



Prior to provincial government intervention and rapid economic shifts in Northern Saskatchewan, women relied on traditional means of survival, and their livelihoods were not threatened.  It should also be noted that the high rate of susceptibility of Indigenous women to physical and sexual violence did not exist prior to colonization.  Rather, its dramatic increase since the establishment of the settler state is indicative of implementation of systems of male dominance, inherent in western philosophy, politics and social organization, as well as in Christian institutions.  As it relates to the experiences of Metis women in Northern Saskatchewan, the majority of respondents referred to the power and influence of the Catholic church in their Metis communities as problematic. 

Poelzer observed that internalized attitudes of male dominance and women’s submission to male leadership permeated the areas in which she conducted her research (1985, 58-59).  This researcher surmises that such widespread acceptance of these attitudes may be related to the influence of religious institutions in these areas.  In terms of the implications of these social problems, physical injuries inflicted by domestic violence can make it difficult and even impossible for women to search for work, complete work-related duties or attend their jobs, while also impacting their wellbeing greatly.  Psychological distress caused by domestic violence such as trauma, depression or anxiety can also severely impair an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day level. Transportation to leave such situations may, and it very often, inaccessible to women - especially in rural or isolated communities in the North where bus services were and remain few and far between.  

In addition, women who leave environments of domestic violence may find themselves and/or their children houseless of facing housing insecurity. The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan notes that women living in Northern Saskatchewan face extreme housing shortages.  The Metis women surveyed in Poelzer’s study confirmed this - they stated that the lack of availability of homes, in addition to the unacceptable quality of government-constructed residences have an effect on family living in terms of the moods, attitudes and relationships of individuals, and these dynamics compound the pre-existing stress arising from housing difficulties (Poelzer 1985, 74-81).  

This association also notes that women living on-reserve experience heightened isolation from domestic and sexualized violence crisis services.  Individuals who cannot access support services may resort to substance abuse in order to manage symptoms of psychological distress.  Moreover, women are prevented from advocating for improvement of these issues because of attitudes of male dominance in community development and public office.  Women can't advocate for change if they are not at the decision-making table - and those in power (men) rarely see these issues as important enough to warrant change.

As one Metis woman stated, "if a woman attends a community meeting, men say, ‘What is she doing here?’ or ‘This is for guys only’” (Poelzer 1985, 111).




Completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway Introduced New Diseases in the West


The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, infamously known as the 'Last Spike,' occurred on Nov. 7, 1885. With this new transportation network came a host of new diseases to the Plains which further devastated malnourished reserve communities on the southern plains. In 1886, whooping cough & measles, which was particularly deadly spread to the Plains via the railway. Some of the Cree population who travelled as far north as Peace River to find relief from introduced disease in southern reserves, suffered consumption (tuberculosis), rheumatism, and scrofula and competition for resources with the local Dane-zaa population.



As conditions in reserve communities continued to worsen a divergence in health outcomes between mildly affected northerners and southerners from the reserve communities became apparent. Aside from the measles epidemic which spread among the northern communities, Indigenous populations in the north did not suffer the same level of food scarcity or tuberculosis that effected southern communities. Northern communities relied less on the bison population that was rapidly dwindling due to American Settlers south of the 49th parallel, as such northern populations did not endure the same food crisis as those of the southern Plains. By and large, the northern populations also benefited from a greater deal of isolation from emerging European settlements and less contact with the Department of Indian Affairs.



Daschuk, James W. Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. Regina: University of Regina Press, 2013. 100-110. 




Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools


Many students experienced sexual abuse at the hands of school faculty, local clergy members, lay persons from the local community, and other students. Some victims of sexual assault in Residential Schools have remained silent about their experiences for multiple reasons, including shame, fear of disbelief, and symptoms of psychological trauma that are harmful to retell to the survivors. However, given the number of survivors who have reported sexual assault, and the extensive research already collected on the conditions of Residential schools, it is inarguable that sexual violence was widespread throughout the institutions, having immediate and long-term effect on Indigenous peoples and their communities. This is affirmed by Mel H. Buffalo, an adviser to the Samson band in Alberta, who says that "every Indian person I have spoken to who attended these schools has a story of mental, physical or sexual abuse.". Several incidents of sexual abuse and neglect occurred under Principle McWhinney at the Crowstand IRS. Following incidents of abuse in 1914, D. C. Scott, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, instructed that female students be sent home. It was deemed the institution was no longer safe to continue mixed education of boys and girls.



Sexual violence/abuse was recorded since the beginning of Residential Schools in the late nineteenth century. Abuse was usually ignored or covered up by school and church authorities. Those that were addressed rarely went beyond the perpetrator being told to stop with no further action taken. It was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that allegations of sexual exploitation/assault by faculty were treated seriously with a number of investigations, arrests, and convictions. While there has been some institutional response from the federal government and church in more recent years, there continues to be barriers in acquiring support and compensation for many survivors and the long-term impacts of Residential Schooling. One ongoing legal battle the federal government has spent 3.2 million dollars against since 2013 are the survivors of St. Anne’s residential school in Ontario. Survivors have asked for a renegotiation of compensation terms after new information “documenting the serious nature of the sexual and physical abuse rampant at St Anne’s” (Royal Canadian Geographical Society, A Fight For Truth) was released following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The federal government denies that larger compensation is owed. This demonstrates the continuation of settler colonial violence against survivors and the wavering commitment of the Canadian Government to engage in true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.  



RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: Agent Blewett to Secretary, 21 July, 1914.

Regarding the investigation into the hapenning at Crowstand school in March and May of 1914. "From statements, of five of the larger girls, signed by these girls in the presence of witnesses, I find that during March last H. Everett, then farmer at the school, entered the girls dormitory alone on two nights and spent some time in the company of two girls in seperate beds. A few nights after this, Everett, with five boys from the Reserve adjacent, entered the same dormitory and spent about half an hour there, each boy (except one who had no girls) got into bed with one of the girls. The girls deny that any immoral acts were committed, but in the case of three older ones, I doubt the truth if this. In May last, from statements signed by Harriet Papequosh and Clara Fiddler, Everett had these two girls, seperatly in his private room, and locked the doors and had sexual intercourse with them." Regarding principle Mc Whinney being sick at the time of the investigation: "I found out after that he knew of the irregularities and had dismissed Everett, so that before I had definite facts to proceed on, Everett had left this district. I will try to bring him to justice. I would like advice as to what I had better do regarding the Reserve men who were in the school with Everett that night. The girls in question are 14 and 15 years old." Regarding Crowstand school: "The School Building at Crowstand is not at all suitable for good, safe and healthy work and if the Boarding School is to be continued a new school should be built at the earliest possible moment, before more serious things happen.

RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: Agent Blewett to Secretary, August 25, 1914.


"After giving the matter careful consideration, Scott concludes that it would not be well to continue the co-education of the sexes in this school any longer. For this reason it has been decided to return the girls to their parents so that their mothers may be in a position to look after them until other suitable arrangements can be made for their education. The school may be kept for the boys exclusively and Mr. McWhinney is being instructed to discharge all the girls and return them to their homes. Scott does not accept the responsibility of condoning McWhinney's treatment of the Everett incident. Scott believes McWhinney is no longer of great use at Crowstand as the Indians have no confidence in his management of the school."

   RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: D.C. Scott to A. Grant, 19 September, 1914.

Regarding the irregularities reported at Crowstand School: "I beg to say that I am pleased to learn, on final hearing in court, from the girls concerned, that the reserve boys were not in the dormitories as formerly reported, but were trying to get in only. As it was on oath we must believe it, although Mr. Bradford and myself thought it the case of all but two there were doubts, however we accepted it and hope it is true. Mr McWhinney has written me stating that Everett confessed to him before he was dismissed, that he had immoral relations with the girls in question, but being unwell at the time and hoping the young man would be benifited by this lesson, he sent him from the school and closed the matter up." In a correspondence dated 19 September, 1914 to Reverend Andrew Grant from the Deputy Superintendent General, it is noted that the girls were eventually sent home from the Crowstand school, and it became a only boys school until further arrangements were made.


  • Baiguzhiyeva, Dariya. “St Anne’s residential school survivors reject Ottawa’s request for independent review.” March 26, 2021.
  • Capitaine, Brieg, and Vanthuyne, Karine, eds. Power through Testimony: Reframing Residential Schools in the Age of Reconciliation. Vancouver: UBC Press,  2017. 321.
  • Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1999. 144-145.
  • Miller, J. R. Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996. 337-338.
  • Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Issuing Body. “A Fight for Truth.” In, Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada = Atlas Des Peuples Autochtones Du Canada. First ed. Aboriginal Education Collection. 2018. 






Multiple epidemic outbreaks in the West


In the decade between 1827 and 1837 a series of localized epidemics hit the Woodland areas of Northern Saskatchewan, infecting the Woodland Cree and Saulteaux. During the 1820s smallpox was raging across in the Missouri River valley, but vaccination efforts at Red River Colony largely halted the spreading of smallpox onto the Plains while also providing some immunity for the smallpox epidemic of 1837. During this decade multiple different illnesses infected the Canadian interior. among them was two new illnesses in chickenpox and mumps. In addition, whooping cough, influenza, and smallpox all returned, although it should be noted that due to vaccination efforts this period saw a decline in smallpox outbreaks. Other illnesses, particularly respiratory complaints, were reported at an increased rate.

These epidemics had a more significant impact on the Woodland region than on the Plains. The epidemics lead to the fracturing of villages and families in the north with many seeking refuge with the Plains Cree. This led to the Plains Cree increasing in size by over 10,000 between 1823 and 1863. Following 1821 the general migration southward following the buffalo migration patterns and an increasing importance in the buffalo trade continued, but at a more rapid pace than before as American trading posts on the Missouri River were attracting the Indigenous nations on the Plains.
Sub Event
Woodland groups drastically affected