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article imageControversial crisis over Canada's Attawapiskat housing situation

By Nancy Houser     Dec 12, 2011 in Lifestyle
Attawapiskat - The Red Cross has declared an emergency in Attawapiskat, while Chief Theresa Spence and the town's leaders are begging to be evacuated before winter hits. The Attawapiskat First Nations declared a state of emergency on October 28, 2011.
Chief Theresa Spence has demanded an additional seven homes in addition to the 15 already purchased for members of the Attawapiskat First Nation. The area had been flooded back in 2009 with leaders demanding its evacuation, with flooding becoming worse since then.
According to Indian Country Today, the Attawapiskat First Nations declared a state of emergency on October 28, 2011, because of major health and safety concerns for the Aborigine people of the community. Additionally, "...what Attawapiskat gets on a per-capita basis is about half of what any other Canadian community receive," reports the Times Colonists.
With the area in a serious housing crisis, the 22 pre-fabricated homes are intended to bring relief to the isolated native community at a cost of $1.8 million. This averages out to $81,818.18 per home, in a community whose cost of living is high because of the expense of shipping any goods to the area. How much, it is anybody's guess or if it will even be adequate.
In a November 2011 article in the Indian Country Today, it was reported that several generations of families are being forced to live under one roof. The residents live in tents, dilapidated huts, temporary shelters and a few trailers---with many homes without running water or electricity. The lack of clean running water causes adults and children to be covered in rashes, while human waste is forced to be dumped into nearby ditches.
November 18, 2011, saw Chief Theresa Spence and several leaders begged to be evacuated from the disintegrating town of Attawapiskat, speaking to The Toronto Star.
“At the moment it really is a crisis we are facing. . . . We are in a third world situation,” Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence told reporters at Queen’s Park on Friday.
“I think we must do that (evacuate) because they are not in safe environment right now and winter is coming,” said Spence, who declared a state of emergency for the community last month.
However, instead of pulling the natives out, Minister Duncan has said, "Our government is working to ensure the people of Attawapiskat have access to safe and warm shelter for the coming months,” he said. Right now, the government is hoping that the winter roads will freeze in order to ship the homes around January. Ottawa has chosen to spend $500,000 for house renovation in Attawapiskat, but critics says that isn’t nearly enough to meet the needs.
According to Sunday's press release, Duncan said that things like wood stoves, composting toilets, plastic sheeting and supplies had been flown into the area Saturday.
The government reports that the native people themselves had mismanaged all the money the government had given them six years ago, planning on bringing in a third-party manager at a cost of $1,300 a day, "The contract is scheduled to end June 30, meaning the total cost for the “third-party manager,” as the government calls it, is about $180,000, or $300,000 for a full year," said the Times Colonist.
Even with new stoves coming in, firewood in Attawapiskat is costing approximately $150 to $200 dollars a cord, which provides from seven to ten days of heat. And winter is not at its worst yet along the James Bay community.
Previously in 2009, a raw sewage spill that had not been cleaned properly were located a couple of feet from where the ill, children and elderly native residents were sleeping. Additionally, the only elementary school had been closed in 2000; toxic fumes were coming from a nearby 1978 diesel spill that had seeped under the school which caused the children's clothes and bodies to smell like diesel.
More about controversary, Over, attawapiskat, Crisis, Housing
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