ATTAWAPISKAT – Leader’s Ledger – As elected officials for the James Bay region, we welcome the involvement of the Red Cross in addressing the state of emergency in Attawapiskat First Nation. Red Cross announced the news this morning in a release by John Saunders, director of Provincial disaster management for the Red Cross. The move comes four weeks into a crisis that has garnered international outrage.
We are pleased that Red Cross has recognized the seriousness of the crisis facing families in Attawapiskat. We welcome their willingness to help co-ordinate emergency aid. The decision to step in comes as Chief Spence warns of worsening conditions for families living in makeshift sheds and tents without electricity or running water.
Red Cross will help address many of the short-term problems facing the community, however, this disaster wasn’t an accident of nature. It was the direct result of the failure of the federal and provincial government to work with the community. This problem remains.
We remain deeply concerned about the lack of movement by both levels of government. It is essential that the federal government ensure there is appropriate funding to address the huge backlog in housing. We want them to work in a proactive and positive way with the community to find long-term solutions.
The provincial government must commit to sending in Emergency Measures Ontario to help assess the needs on the ground. As well, the Province must ensure that families and individuals living in makeshift housing have access to medical and social support.
This fight is far from over. In the coming weeks, we will continue to push both federal and provincial governments to follow through on their obligations to help Attawapiskat.
This community isn’t alone. All across Canada’s north, First Nation communities are facing chronic under-funding in basic services – education, health, and infrastructure. This crisis must be a wake up call to federal and provincial officials to finally get serious about ensuring that First Nation families are able to live lives of dignity and hope.
This crisis has also been a wake up call for average Canadians. People do care.
Our office has been inundated with people contacting us from across North America wanting to help. We are asking people to shift their fundraising efforts to the Red Cross Attawapiskat disaster relief program that has been initiated.
The Red Cross will accept financial donations that will be then be used to purchase emergency help such as bedding, generators, heaters, winter clothing and support for clean water. We will have a team on the ground in Timmins to help assist in ensuring that the supplies are shipped into the community.
Financial donations may be made online at www.redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through your local Canadian Red Cross office.
Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Attawapiskat” and can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Court, Mississauga, ON, L5R 3E9.
We thank the people who have contacted us looking for ways to help. Over the next number of days we will be responding to this outpouring of ideas, outrage and commitment. The message we have heard again and again is that we can do better as a nation. We must do better as a nation.
Charlie Angus MP
Gilles Bisson MPP