What’s New in Grad Studies? (Spring Term)


Course description

Making Poverty: A Short History of Government On-Reserve Housing Programs

Sylvia Olsen, PhD candidate, Department of History

Friday, Feb. 3: 12:30 to 1:45 pm

“First we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” When this idea is applied to housing on reserves we begin to understand the impact the persistent housing crisis has had on the social conditions that plague First Nations. Sylvia Olsen makes a compelling case that the federal government delivery of housing programs did not only result in substandard dwellings but played a fundamental role in making poverty in First Nations communities in Canada. Sylvia Olsen is a historian and an on-reserve housing specialist. Her research focuses on government housing programs on reserves across Canada. It started in the early 1970s when she became a married-in member of Tsartlip First Nation and moved to the reserve where she lived for almost 35 years. Her career as a housing manager, construction supervisor, policy analyst and housing educator motivated her to go back to university to investigate why one of Canada’s most intractable social problems has persisted for almost a century. The result is a unique discussion that will allow you think about Canada’s “other” houses in a whole different way.

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