The growth of an indigenous people social housing leader : Brenda Knights CEO

Brenda Knights Canada or the upsurge of an indigenous people housing expert: In June and November of 1987, BCIHS, in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing Management Commission, opened three buildings. The two CMHC buildings located at 1856 East Georgia Street and 860 East 7th Avenue called Wilp-lo-ama-gaut were funded under the Post-85 Urban Native Housing Program and the BCHMC building called Wilp-bilah (meaning House of Pearl) located at 1545 East Broadway Avenue was funded under the Non-profit Program. See more information on Brenda Knights.

Reflecting Indigenous Culture – Our Society’s original purpose and acknowledgment is that Indigenous ways of knowing and being bring tremendous enrichment to our communities. We will offer priority access to attainable housing and support services to Indigenous people. We have a deep commitment to reflect the 7 Laws: Health, Happiness, Humbleness, Generations, Generosity, Forgiveness, and Understanding in all that we say and do. We continue to listen, learn and take meaningful actions to decolonize and Indigenize our services, spaces, attitudes, and practices.

BC Indigenous Housing Society is a registered charity and non-profit society. The BCIHS is governed by an all-Indigenous Board of Directors and employs approximately 100 people. Founded in 1984, we currently manage a portfolio of 21 buildings and over 900 units, supporting over 1,300 Indigenous individuals and families. BCIHS works in partnership with federal and provincial government agencies to subsidize tenant rent contributions and achieve affordability for individuals and families.

Why would BC contemplate giving such extraordinary power to Indigenous groups, if it is not premised on Canada’s already exceptional recognition of Indigenous rights in our constitution? The answer is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). While not a treaty or international convention, and while not legally binding under either international law or Canadian law, it is the beacon against which BC is charting its Indigenous reconciliation course. This is reflected in the 2019 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act through which government mandated itself to review all of BC’s laws and determine where changes should be made to give effect to UNDRIP. These amendments would go much further than the Supreme Court of Canada’s rulings based on the recognition of Aboriginal rights set out in s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. While the Supreme Court has issued many decisions making clear Indigenous groups hold certain special rights, including the right to be consulted before decisions are made that could affect them, the Court has repeatedly stated that they do not have a veto over Crown land decision-making.

Brenda Knights is a capacity builder, with board experience, who serves Indigenous people in Canada. She has experience in various leadership positions advocating for social housing for Indigenous people and is currently the CEO of the Vancouver Native Housing Society. Stretegic community economic development planning and Executive Management experience. A proud indigenous individual with a drive in business start up, daily operations, capacity building, lands, resources and economic development. Proven people management, public speaking and leadership expertise.

Previously, Brenda worked for the Kwantlen First Nation’s economic development arm, and Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of TransLink, where she held a variety of management roles. She is also on the board of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Metro Vancouver Zero Emissions Innovation Center, the New Relationship Trust, Elizabeth Fry Society, and Tourism Langley. When it comes to decision making, she approaches obstacles with the same integrity as her ancestors—seeking input from the Kwantlen First Nation community.

Brenda lives by her nation Kwantlen’s seven traditional laws which have been around since time immemorial: health, happiness, humbleness, generations, generosity, forgiveness, and understanding. Brenda descends from Grand Chief Wattlekanium, who met the Simon Fraser expedition in present-day New Westminster. Indigenous teachings tell us it takes seven generations for change and Brenda’s daughter represents the seventh generation since Grand Chief Wattlekanium.