Statement by Minister O’Regan on Cat Lake First Nation Meeting

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – A meeting in Thunder Bay on Friday, February 21, 2019, led to the signing of an agreement between Canada and Cat Lake First Nation.

Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, issued the following statement regarding today’s meeting with Cat Lake First Nation:

Supporting the health and safety of the people of Cat Lake is our first priority.

Earlier today, I met with Chief Matthew Keewaykapow of Cat Lake First Nation in Thunder Bay to affirm and move forward collaboratively with next steps to address the housing and health challenges his community faces. We were joined by members of Cat Lake’s Council, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, as well as representatives from Windigo Tribal Council and the Honourable Bob Nault, Member of Parliament for Kenora.

Together, Windigo Tribal Council, on behalf of Cat Lake First Nation, and I signed an interim framework agreement that outlines the next steps needed to provide immediate support to the people of Cat Lake First Nation, as well as the timeframe to implement this plan. These steps include:

  • $3,500,000 in funding to support 15 new housing units, as well as additional funding for demolition, site preparation, and shipping of materials;
  • $2,100,000 in funding to repair 21 existing housing units;
  • $2,000,000 in funding to for the delivery and installation of 10 portable housing units;
  • Expediting 7 new housing units that are currently under construction, as well as construction on two new duplexes ( a total of 4 housing units);
  • The appointment of a Project Manager and Financial Advisor to support these housing projects, as well providing for financial literacy training and an ongoing position of Housing Manager in the community;
  • The completion of the winter ice road, which is necessary for vehicles to transport the materials required for repairs, renovations, and construction of homes;
  • The construction of a temporary warehouse structure to store materials and;
  • Identification of additional priority housing units for repair and replacement.

We also spoke about the urgent health needs of the community and I again expressed my sincere condolences to the Chief on the recent loss of a community member.

A medical assessment is currently underway in the community. On February 14, a pediatric respirology doctor was in Cat Lake First Nation to conduct a medical assessment and treat individuals identified by the community. From February 17-20, an infectious disease specialist was in the community to further assess and treat patients as appropriate. We will be reviewing the results of the medical assessment when they are available, on an urgent basis. Indigenous Services Canada has also increased the nursing staff in the community nursing station to provide additional supports. 

I thank Chief Keewaykapow for taking the time to meet with me and thank all involved for their tireless efforts to advance this crucial work together. With this interim framework agreement now in place, we will have a clear path forward to meet the needs of the community members, both in the immediate and long term.

Chief Keewaykapow and I look forward to signing the final Memorandum of Agreement and viewing the work underway when I visit Cat Lake First Nation in the coming weeks.