The growth of a native people social housing expert : Brenda Knights

Meet Brenda Knights and some of her indigenous people housing accomplishments: Opened in December 2014, Kwayatsut provides 99 units of Supportive Housing. 30 of these units are dedicated to a supportive youth housing program in collaboration with the Pacific Community Resources Society. In February 2021 Vancouver City Council unanimously approved the new development proposal for 1766 Francis Street. This new Passive House development will contain 40 studios, nine one-bedroom units, five one-bedroom accessible units, 14 two-bedroom units, six three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units as well as a daycare facility. Discover more info at Brenda Knights.

BC Indigenous Housing Society is dedicated to providing safe, attainable housing for over 1,000 Indigenous individuals and families living in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia that encourage familial and cultural connections. We are tireless in our efforts to provide attainable, inclusive housing and services for Indigenous people, by empowering collaborative teamwork and responsible stewardship. Your BC Indigenous Housing Society donations support the development efforts to build and operate more than 3,000 additional new homes for Indigenous families and raise essential funds for operating childcare programs and tenant supports.

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.

Earlier this month the BC Government posted (without any media release) a topic “Land Act Amendments” on a little-known website Up until now, these decisions have always been made by the Minister responsible for the Land Act (or her or his delegates in the senior ranks of the public service), with a corresponding duty to consult affected First Nations. These types of decisions are a major part of governing the land base and economy in BC, and these decision-makers are supported by well-drafted and comprehensive Crown Land policies and procedures manuals. Under the amendments being proposed by the BC government, changes will be made to enable agreements with Indigenous groups such that they will be provided a veto power over decision-making about Crown land tenures and / or have “joint” decision making power with the Minister. Where such agreements apply, the Crown alone will no longer have the power to make the decisions about Crown land that it considers to be in the public interest.

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.