Attawapiskat Housing Update – Progress continues, more work needed

The new homes are helping the housing crisis in Attawapiskat
The new homes are helping the housing crisis in Attawapiskat

ATTAWAPISKAT – Aboriginal News – The northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat made headlines last winter over housing conditions. Over the winter, mobiles homes were shipped to Attawapiskat over the winter ice road. Through the summer, those homes have been put in place, on sites throughout Attawapiskat.

Photographer Christopher Kat shares these images with showing the latest images.

There have been a number of positive changes in Attawapiskat over the summer. While last year, the Band Office had been vandalized, now there is a mural painted on the outside walls of the office.

The modular homes, which were at the heart of the housing and political crisis last winter, made it into the community via the winter road in early 2012. They have now been set up across the community.

Attawapiskat was moved out of ‘third party management’ in April. “In recognition of the accomplishments that have been achieved in substantially addressing the urgent health and safety needs of affected Attawapiskat residents through the third-party manager, we have notified the Attawapiskat First Nation of the Department’s intent to move the First Nation out of third-party funding agreement management and back to co-management,” stated Minister John Duncan on April 5th 2012. “The Third Party Manager was put in place to support measures to address the urgent health and safety needs and to ensure that affected families have access to safe and warm shelter”.

Attawapiskat Band Office
The Band Office in Attawapiskat has a new mural painted on the outside walls.
Attawapiskat Band Office
The front of the Band Office is looking sharp in Attawapiskat.

The situation in Attawapiskat has improved, but still has a lot of work to do.

Last May, Attawapiskat Chief Spence reported, “A 2011 Capital Planning Study found that Attawapiskat required an initial 70 new homes in order to safely house its members. The 2011 report outlined a plan to increase housing at Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat has requested the Department’s assistance in implementing that plan.

Attawapiskat housing
Modular homes in Attawapiskat

“In the meantime, and despite the installation of the mobile homes, there remain dozens of families and individuals living in unsafe conditions at Attawapiskat. The First Nation has requested Canada’s assistance, through the Department, in securing safe housing for all its members, in short term, and in the long term”.

Not all the homes are new in the community, and there is still a shortage of housing.

“The short term measure is to address some 50 members of the Attawapiskat’s First Nation who currently live in a set of ATCO construction camp trailers, donated to the community to provide short term relief for members of the Attawapiskat several years ago”.

Progress in the community is on-going, but there is progress.

There are also signs that the problems faced in Attawapiskat will continue. An application to help by financing the construction of thirty homes in Attawapiskat was not approved because the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, John Duncan has refused to sign off on an agreement between Attawapiskat and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Attawapiskat School
The sign of change, a new school in Attawapiskat

It is also encouraging is that the new school, announced this spring, already has the foundation prepared. The ground for that new school was broken on June 22nd.

Attawapiskat school
Attawapiskat’s new school’s foundation is now ready.

There are signs of progress, but the reality is there is still a lot of work to be done.

The real question will be how the First Nation and the federal government through Aboriginal Affairs are able to work together after everything that has happened in the past year.

James Murray

Drawings by Attawapiskat students about how their new school will look

All pictures by Christopher Kat ©2012

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