The Real Work Still to Come in Attawapiskat

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Modular HomesTHUNDER BAY – The real work of getting modular homes operational is just starting in Attawapiskat. Right now in Attawapiskat, work crews from Debeers are on the ground preparing the sites for the modular homes that are starting to arrive in Attawapiskat. Site preparation in the far north, where without proper site preparation the modular homes would start to sink into ground as the muskeg melts is not as simple as it appears the Minister and his manager have tried to make it seem.

For example, putting down the gravel bed that the modular homes will rest on takes several loads of gravel. That material isn’t in the community, where there is not a gravel pit. Sources tell NNL, it is estimated that it will take about 10 to 15 days for the gravel to be brought into the community. It must come in along the winter ice road, and can only be done if the weather remains cold and the ice road can stay open.

The workers on the ground have to get sites prepared, then are finding out if there is enough electrical capacity at the substation to power the homes. It takes 200 watt service to power the homes and keep them warm enough to remain habitable in the winter.

If the modular homes are not heated with electricity, but by fuel, then that fuel for now, and for next winter too must all come in on the ice road. Right now, the government manager is holding the control of all of the funds, and it is unknown if the third party manager knows enough about the realities of Attawapiskat to make the needed decisions.

On Saturday, John Duncan, the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development 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”.

The level of frustration for the people in Attawapiskat is likely to climb. To prepare the sites for the modular homes, it means some of the temporary housing people are currently living in must be demolished. The Chief and Council for Attawapiskat who know their community are in the position of not being able to make decisions, as decision making lies in the hands of Minister Duncan’s manager. That manager is not in Attawapiskat, the Band has told him he is not welcome.

Attawapiskat is fighting the imposition of the government manager in court. It appears Minister Duncan feels that the Chief and Council should work with that manager even though to do so would likely destroy their court case.

Increasingly it appears that the decision by Minister Duncan to impose his manager on the Attawapiskat First Nation was one done in haste and without a full realization of all that was entailed.

Informed sources in Attawapiskat share that programs are being cut in the community as funds dry up, and Minister Duncan’s manager does not release them. Some youth attending school outside the community are already facing problems as their funding isn’t coming. That makes it possible that students attending high school outside the community, along with post secondary students could lose their school year.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

Photograph and video by Christopher Kataquapit

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