Real Story of Attawapiskat Storm Crisis

Working through the crisis in Attawapiskat - The lights might have been out, the work went on
Working through the crisis in Attawapiskat - The lights might have been out, the work went on

Feeding the Crisis response 'A-Team' in Attawapiskat
Feeding the Crisis response ‘A-Team’ in Attawapiskat

The A-Team in Attawapiskat

ATTAWAPISKAT – Editorial – The real story in Attawapiskat over the past week was the resilience of the people in the Northern Ontario community. Facing a winter storm, a power outage, and a fire, the community rallied to overcome difficulties, and worked together.

Power of Love and Respect Working Together

From Attawapiskat, “Our leadership did everything along with our responders, as a first hand witness to countless meetings and careful coordination of all our team, my hats off to them and how they handle this. Our people are resilient, no matter what the outside hear, we have witness the power of love and respect in working together in here. No one will tell you but the hard work that was involved and determination was phenomenal…..only the ones who see the risks our team too rescuing n helping our people will be edge into our hearts” – Blueskywoman.

That is the heart of the real story…

Attawapiskat brought their ‘A-Team’ to the forefront this week. It wasn’t a surprise to many – it might be only to those who wear political blinders.

The storm hit on November 18th. Environment Canada reported, “Heavy snow continues this evening. Total snowfall amounts are projected to reach 20 to 25 cm before snow tapers off later this evening or overnight. In addition to the heavy snow, 60 km/h winds will gust up to 80 km/h or above. These strong winds will cause near zero visibilities in blowing snow”.

That was an understatement. The storm knocked out power. Emergency response teams had to go out, door to door to ensure that people turned off the power including power to water heaters. 

“At this time, there is too much power on for the homes without power to be turned on”. 

Working through the crisis in Attawapiskat - The lights might have been out, the work went on
Working through the crisis in Attawapiskat – The lights might have been out, the work went on

Through all of this, from the 18th, 19th, and into the recovery period, the community rallied. Shelter was found for the people needing a warmer place to stay. Meals were cooked, and things to do for the children found so they were safe.

The Chief, Council and community rallied to do the things that needed to be done.

November 19 storm in Attawapiskat wind and drifting snow
November 19 storm in Attawapiskat wind and drifting snow

The fire that hit the emergency shelter was handled very well. 

The federal government, which was accused in 2011 of a ‘Katrina response’ to the housing crisis stepped in fast too. 

Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Valcourt stated, “In Attawapiskat, the fire department responded quickly and all residents managed to escape the fire without injury. The community of Kapuskasing has been quick to offer to facilitate an evacuation of displaced residents to its community. My officials are in continuous contact with the community and we are taking immediate steps to work with the Chief, the Band Council, and other partners to ensure residents displaced by a fire at Attawapiskat First Nation have a safe, warm place to stay”. 

Make a plan, work the plan - Attawapiskat put their 'A-Team' to work this week!
Make a plan, work the plan – Attawapiskat put their ‘A-Team’ to work this week!

That is the way it should be. The community has often faced crisis. Often Attawapiskat has been treated like a political football. It is difficult in today’s modern world to sit back and look at some of the comments that people make on public forums on a community in crisis.

As Canadians, often we are very smug about how our country isn’t racist, or how we are somehow just a little better than many other countries.

Bluntly put, if you scan some  of the media sites covering this story, and read the comments, assuredly from a fringe minority who hide behind their keyboard, the sad fact is we have a long ways to go before Canadians can fully wear the mantle of fully enlightened society.

Recognizing Hard Work

The efforts of the entire Attawapiskat community were shining bright this week, even the power outage and fire have not dampened spirits in this community.

Minister Valcourt says, “It is too early to tell how long residents could be away from their homes however, my officials will work in partnership with the Town of Kapuskasing to ensure that community members return home safe in their community with their loved ones”.

 The Leadership reached out to Emergency Management Ontario, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to provide assistance to the community, and the affected residents have been evacuated to the City of Kapuskasing. 

Chief Theresa Spence states, “I would like to thank Mayor Spacek and the citizens of Kapuskasing for assisting in this current emergency, and on behalf of my Council, and community thank you.”

Chief Spence, the Attawapiskat Council, and especially the people of Attawapiskat did it right under very trying conditions this week.

The residents flown out are safe, the community is safe.

That simple and hard work demonstrates what is real Northern reality. 

James Murray

Sources: Northern Bureau NNL, Attawapiskat Women, A-Team

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