by Frank LaRue
“The main thing for us is the mould issue. All our houses are subject to mould because the river here never freezes,” Chief Harold Turner of the Misipawistik Cree Nation (MCN).
The housing issue for Indigenous people remains a priority for the federal government who have set up a fund for native housing. Chief Harold Turner of the Misipawistik Cree Nation borrowed $9 million to build 30 new houses, which are mould and fire resistant. Architect Douglas Cardinal designed new the houses that will hopefully prevent mould. Cardinal was wary of the previous pre-fabricated homes that he felt ‘weren’t built with native people in mind,’ being “Extremely unhealthy houses, they’re built so badly,” he stated.
The problem with pre-fabricated homes, according to Cardinal who was the architect for the Canadian Museum of History and the Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, is “the condensation build-up along vapour barriers which line the insulation in the walls. Humidity builds up along the plastic, which leads to mould growth.” The spores created by mould create respiratory issues including coughing, allergic reactions and symptoms of asthma, and is harmful for children and the elderly. This information is from Health Canada, proving the government has known for years about this problem, which Cardinal refers to as the Silent Killer.
Douglas Cardinal’s designer homes use cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is environmentally sustainable and has replaced concrete and steel. “The timber structures like this are lighter than concrete or steel but because they’re heavy timber construction, they’re even more fireproof,” he explained. Cardinal’s experience with controlling humidity is extensive after designing the Canadian Museum of History, a building which had to have a 50% humidity level to keep the artifacts intact. There are no basements because in Cardinal’s words, “basements can lead to increased humidity as well as radon gas in the home.” Cardinal also mentioned that the ground floor would also resist mould.
Chief Turner is not a hundred percent convinced, but he is willing to take the chance and if it works, Douglas Cardinal’s design with CLT might provide a solution for the northern Ontario Bands who are dealing with the same mould and poor housing problems. “If they are what they say they are…then obviously we’ll be purchasing more in the future,” Chief Turner told the CBC. Turner had to secure a loan to buy the houses because he feels the government is more promises than action. “We can’t wait for the federal government to build the homes since even though they are obligated to build us homes under treaty, they failed us.”