Attawapiskat isn’t North Vancouver Island


loading modular homesTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – For several weeks, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has touted the decision by his department’s appointed manager in Attawapiskat on the purchase of modular homes for the community as aiding the move to ease the housing crisis in Attawapiskat. It has not mattered that Attawapiskat Chief and Council had already come to the same conclusion in November, and it didn’t seem to matter to Minister Duncan that the sites for the mobile homes were not ready.

Today the Minister is talking about preparations needed for the twenty sites for the modular homes. Minister Duncan stated, “I have communicated directly with the Chief and Council to express my concern with the state of readiness of the serviced lots to receive and immediately hook up all modular homes that have been purchased with funds provided by our Government and that are ready to be delivered to Attawapiskat. In the best interests of the families living in temporary housing, our Government has also offered additional capacity to the Chief and Council to expedite this work and ensure maximum use of the winter road”.

What Minister Duncan, who has not been in Attawapiskat, and seemingly doesn’t understand is that construction in the north is not the same as construction in the south. The winter temperatures in Attawapiskat, and other northern communities mean that the ground is frozen. Sites that were not prepared before the onset of winter are likely to not be ready to immediately install.

The crisis in Attawapiskat was declared by the Chief and Council after months of ongoing discussions with the Minister and his department.

The depth of the problem was first raised in August. Chief Spence states, “Council and Attawapiskat staff began to try to develop further ways of addressing these issues, but it became apparent to us in September and October that there was no way of reconciling the financial austerity within the funding available to us and the need for further spending on the most basic of repairs and construction”.

“Concerns were expressed by myself, my staff and Grand Chief Stan Louttit of the Mushkegowuk Council, verbally and writing to AANDC throughout September and October 2011, about the current housing conditions, the effects of the oncoming cold weather, and the safety and well-being of our members”, continued Chief Spence.

“No plans were put forward by AANDC to address these concerns”.

Asking questions of the Minister on the issues of site preparation, electrical capacity for the new modular homes, and how exactly these modular homes would be able to be hooked up to sewers and plumbing over the past two weeks have been met with no answer either. Somehow the Minister appears to be unable to consider that the problem has been a lack of capacity in the community.

Charlie Angus charges, “I’ve been asking John Duncan for the last two weeks why there is no funding to prepare the sites for homes in Attawapiskat. He said my claims were a “fabrication”. Now he’s scrambling to put out a press release to express his ‘concern’ that the band hasn’t built a subdivision when he has cut off their funds”.

If the problems were so simple to solve, the First Nation would have solved them long ago.

It is certainly a step in the right direction for the modular homes to be finally on the way to Attawapiskat. However it is also likely that the task is just begining, to solve the real problems over housing which is continuing across many other Northern First Nations community is just begining.

Minister Duncan also appears to be lacking in his understanding of how construction in the far north is different from his home on Vancouver Island. There the building conditions are far different from Attawapiskat. Plopping the modular homes down on the ground in the north like he might do in Vancouver Island is not going to work.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

Christopher Kataquapit © 2012 Photos

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