Opinion: Photographer heartbroken by First Nation's decaying homes
Darran Chaisson was so unsettled by what he saw on assignment in Ucluelet that he sent The Discourse his first-hand view to share with our readers.
After touring the homes today with Ucluelet president Les Doiron and housing manager Marilyn Touchie, I am absolutely heartbroken and disgusted at the standard of living these people are residing in. I have seen third-world countries with better housing than the First Peoples of Canada in Ucluelet.
It has moved me to tears seeing what they have to put up with on a daily basis. Folks think they know what hardship and poor living conditions are like, but they have no idea until they witness it for themselves. The level of degradation is so absolute that homes are exposed to the elements from rotten wood going to the outside, black mould so abundant in the homes it physically hurt my lungs to breathe while I was photographing them.
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When I went into the Youth Learning Centre, the air was so foul, I emerged quite literally choking and gasping from such a toxic environment. There is no medical facility there, and there is only one road in. Houses have tarps on the roofs to keep the rain out to some extent, but most of those are torn and ratty. In one home they can’t even use the inside lights when it’s raining because the water that leaks from the roof pours into the rooms below through the light fixtures.
Babies are being born into the strife. Some homes don’t even have heat for the children that are being raised. Renny Mundy doesn’t even have a doorknob on his house, and has to loop a chain through a hole in his exterior wall and his door to keep the door closed.
To make matters worse, these folks get to look “Across The Bay” (a common moniker for the town of Ucluelet) at pristine houses, and $400-a-night luxury hotels. As if living in extreme poverty weren’t enough of a shot, having to watch the affluent white community prosper is like a knife in the gut.
To think that the Canadian government has allowed these kinds of conditions to exist and to propagate makes me sick to my stomach.