Logo - CHF Canada

National Indigenous History Month: Perspectives from April Ager-White

Published June 04, 2024

National Indigenous History Month: Perspectives from April Ager-White

June is National Indigenous History Month and CHF Canada took the opportunity to ask April Ager-White to reflect on her involvement with efforts to build more housing for Indigenous people across the country.

April just completed the first year as Director Representing Indigenous Communities on the Board of CHF Canada. She also serves as the treasurer at First Nations Housing Co-operative in London, Ontario and represents her co-op on the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Inc (NICHI).

You just finished your first full year on the CHF Canada Board representing Indigenous Communities. What has that been like?

Joining a bigger board has been an interesting learning experience. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of diversity on the CHF Canada board. I’ve also become aware of how involved CHF Canada is with political lobbying. 

One thing I’ve initiated is the adoption of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address at the start of each Board meeting. That gets everyone focused on the same thing, reminding us that we’re all there for the same purpose – to provide co-operative housing to the best of our abilities across the nation. 

What’s happening with the ongoing advocacy to get the federal government to fully fund the Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy?

CHF Canada has been a great supporter in reminding the Ministers at all different levels of government that this must be a priority if they ever wish to have any sort of tangible action towards reconciliation. When we’re at a table and we’re discussing that strategy in front of government officials, they’ve at least heard of it. So I’m hopeful in that respect. 

Can you explain how NICHI is involved?

NICHI is the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Incorporation. Its mandate is to advance housing as a human right for Indigenous people, whether it’s not-for-profit, social housing, transitional housing or co-operative housing. NICHI uses the “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” strategy to deliver relevant and appropriate services.

You also attended the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association Congress held in April. 

Yes. The day before the Congress, they held their Indigenous Innovation Forum. Indigenous housing providers came, and that was the day after the NICHI meeting, so it was just days and days of housing people. It was really good. I was meeting other Indigenous housing providers and spreading the word about co-operative housing. We need to build more co-op housing for everyone, but certainly it could be part of the solution to the problem of the lack of housing for Indigenous people. 

Are you also involved in local initiatives? 

I’ve been inviting key people in Indigenous organizations and First Nations communities around London to join me for discussions. We’re calling it the Indigenous Housing Leadership Group for now. We’re working parallel to the London Housing Table, and we’re looking at working very closely with CHF Canada to possibly build more co-operative housing here. 

How could Indigenous History Month inspire people to want to learn more or to take action?

A lot of people are looking for some deeper meaning. People are often awestruck by the beauty of Indigenous cultures which leads them to dive into that beauty to find out more. I think co-op Board Directors could make members aware of Indigenous offerings in their own communities – authors, artists, musicians or a restaurant serving Indigenous cuisine. 

How do you see the Indigenous Reconciliation Toolkit being used effectively with co-op members?

Board Directors could let their membership know that it’s available to everyone. There are items in the toolkit that could help people on personal and organizational levels to find ways to advance reconciliation. 

Also, co-ops with Indigenous members may be eligible to vote for the Indigenous Community Director position. We are reviewing our bylaw process now. I would encourage co-ops to find out more.

When it comes to Indigenous issues and reconciliation there’s always a lot to talk about. There are a lot of issues still, but certainly, advancing some semblance of reconciliation has to be at the forefront of everything in this country for things to move forward. And that’s part of my role as the Indigenous Community Director, to advance that reconciliation piece. 

Don't miss out on the latest co-op news, success stories, and helpful resources for your co-op. Sign up here to receive our eNews every two weeks straight to your inbox!