It is important to acknowledge the experience of Indigenous people in Canada if we are to truly end youth homelessness, particularly in light of their consistent overrepresentation in vulnerable populations. Indigenous homelessness is notably different; the structural and systemic determinants associated with colonialism, the Indian Act, treaty making, residential schools and the Sixties Scoop have resulted in considerable discriminatory impacts that are in fact intergenerational.
A sense of being homeless can be experienced from diverse perspectives: cultural, spiritual or emotional. It is more than a loss of housing. The impact of colonization, residential schooling, intergenerational trauma, ongoing discrimination and racism in Canadian society has contributed to the ongoing systematic marginalization of Indigenous people, including Indigenous youth.
This is illustrated by the higher than average proportion of Indigenous people experiencing poverty, violence, core housing need, low educational attainment and poor access to services and housing. As Indigenous people move into cities from reserves, their settlement and cultural reconnection needs must be addressed, along with the jurisdictional vacuums that impact their significantly reduced access to basic services both on and off reserves. This is notably relevant to Indigenous youth as well.
Indigenous people’s economic, spiritual and social development has been and continues to be negatively impacted by government policies and practices at the local, provincial, territorial and federal levels. In particular, the establishment of residential schools, reserves and the Indian Act resulted in a widespread and intergenerational loss of culture, language, community and identity still impacting today’s Indigenous people.
Some Indigenous youth respond to discrimination and stereotypes by distancing themselves from this part of their identity. Others have not had the opportunity to experience or develop a strong cultural identity due to the loss of teachings and traditions within their families or communities.  This is especially so for many urban Indigenous youth and those growing up in the child welfare system.
Recognizing these critical issues, A Way Home will, in the future, complement this toolkit with a more robust Indigenous module, which will include resources specific to Indigenous youth homelessness.
Key terms used:
Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous is a term used to encompass a variety of Aboriginal groups. It is most frequently used in an international, transnational or global context. This term came into wide usage during the 1970s when Aboriginal groups organized transnationally and pushed for greater presence in the United Nations (UN). In the UN, "Indigenous" is used to refer broadly to peoples of long settlement and connection to specific lands who have been adversely affected by incursions by industrial economies, displacement and settlement of their traditional territories by others. This the term we recommend using in the context of community planning.
Aboriginal: A collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nations), Métis and Inuit (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada).
First Nations (non-status): People who consider themselves Indians or members of a First Nation but whom the Government of Canada does not recognize as Indians under the Indian Act, either because they are unable to prove their status or have lost their status rights. Many Indian people in Canada, especially women, lost their Indian status through discriminatory practices in the past. Non-status Indians are not entitled to the same rights and benefits available to Status Indians (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada).
First Nations (status): People who are entitled to have their names included on the Indian Register, an official list maintained by the federal government. Certain criteria determine who can be registered as a Status Indian. Only Status Indians are recognized as Indians under the Indian Act, which defines an Indian as “a person who, pursuant to this Act, is registered as an Indian or is entitled to be registered as an Indian.” Status Indians are entitled to certain rights and benefits under the law (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada).
Inuit: An Aboriginal people in Northern Canada, who live in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec and Northern Labrador. The word means "people" in the Inuit language — Inuktitut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada).
Metis: People of mixed First Nation and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis, as distinct from First Nations people, Inuit or non-Aboriginal people. The Métis have a unique culture that draws on their diverse ancestral origins, such as Scottish, French, Ojibway and Cree (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada). 
Due to the significant overrepresentation of Indigenous people among homeless populations in Canada, Indigenous communities should play a major role in all efforts to address youth homelessness. The planning process can create new opportunities for meaningful collaboration between mainstream and Indigenous communities, enabling diverse groups to come together to better understand the needs and experiences of marginalized community members.
The Homeless Hub has developed a summary on Indigenous homelessness in Canada and an overview of the causes of Indigenous homelessness.
Communities like Winnipeg and Yellowknife have pointed us toward resources that can help you in developing your engagement approach with Indigenous peoples. However, these communities have only recently engaged in the planning work. Their learning will greatly benefit our collective knowledge on this issue in the future.
One emerging insight from Winnipeg is that because many youth in the city have come from rural and remote areas across Manitoba, the engagement process must be broadened to include the region. Web-based and in-person consultations are being planned with Indigenous communities and youth across the province, which comes with additional resource needs but will ultimately enhance the effectiveness of the plan.
Another point to note here is that on-reserve Indigenous people may see rural and urban places as an extension of their traditional territories; as such, when we consider our approaches we can’t simply assume we are assisting ‘migrant’ Indigenous youth not otherwise connected to urban centres. In reality, Indigenous people may not be ‘migrating’ to the city, “but rather returning to a place that they have always known, historically, economically and spiritually,” says Albert McLeod of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.
Further, we have to also be cognizant that the paradigm from which youth-serving agencies approach their work remains grounded in Western post-colonial legislation and policy. In other words, we can’t assume that the established organizations that play a key role in addressing youth homelessness are necessarily aligned with Indigenous infrastructures’ relations with governments economic development on and on-reserve and urban reserve development, etc. (Albert McLeod, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg).
The following list highlights just a few of the things to consider when engaging with Indigenous peoples. Currently, there are limited youth plans with a concerted focus on Indigenous people. This is key priority for future iterations of this toolkit.
Table 21: Considerations in Developing an EngagementApproach with IndigenousPeople
Based on the Homeless Hub’s toolkit for building partnerships with Indigenous communities in the context of a PiT Count, the following strategies are useful in considering your consultation during the youth plan development. These were adapted to include the input of communities consulted in the development of the toolkit, as well as learning from the Aboriginal Plan to End Homelessness in Calgary.
Table 22: Indigenous Engagement Strategy Examples