MOOSE FACTORY – After visiting Fort Albany and Kashechewan, Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit is deeply concerned by state of infrastructure in the First Nations. “Years of government control and fiscal constraint have put our communities at serious risk. The members of the Mushkegowuk First Nations want change. They want to address these long-term problems, but to do so we need the power to make local decisions and address local needs. The infrastructure in these communities is very old and dilapidated. An assessment of the infrastructure of the communities should be done now.”
Mushkegowuk Council Seeks Local Control
The ongoing crises from the spring melt on the James Bay Coast are improving in some areas, but serious problems remain . The Mushkegowuk Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief are thankful that the immediate threat to some the communities has decreased but the long term damage remains, and the First Nation community of Attawapiskat is expected to issue an emergency declaration today that would have vulnerable members of the community evacuated as early as this weekend.
On May 9/13, the Mushkegowuk Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief, as well as Mushkegowuk senior staff visited Fort Albany and Kashechewan First Nations to see first-hand the impacts of the spring floods and the damage caused by sewage and water backup.
In Kashechewan the leadership saw the work beginning on the forty homes that had flooded basements. Drywall, insulation, washers, driers and personal belongings are all being removed from the affected basements by community staff.
Before the basements are restored, the drains will need to be excavated and check-valves will need to be installed to prevent future backups. As well the weeping tiles will need to be excavated and inspected. Some residents who were evacuated because of the risk of flooding are beginning to return to the community.
In Fort Albany First Nation, the Mushkegowuk leadership was taken on a tour of the community by the Chief and First Nation emergency staff, including a helicopter survey of the ice floes on the Albany River and out to James Bay.
The community has implemented a comprehensive emergency response system to address the risk to its members, including an Emergency Coordination Centre. The main causeway in the community remains flooded, cutting off most residents from easy access to the airport, hospital and the primary grocery store. As a result the community has established a temporary nursing clinic to respond to emergency medical needs.
In Moose Factory and Moosonee, life is slowly returning to normal as the flood waters begin to recede and most of the ice has moved into James Bay.
For the Grand Chief it is clearer than ever that a fundamental change needs to happen now before the next crises strikes. He added that “The Mushkegowuk Chiefs are more determined than ever to control their own destinies . It is not right that the Provincial and Federal governments are taking millions of dollars in revenue from the resources from our lands and we need to beg to have enough money returned to get clean water and safe communities. We will fight to change this fiscal imbalance in any way we can.”
Mushkegowuk Deputy Grand Chief Leo Friday is also very concerned about the future safety of the First Nations but sees hope in their determination over the last two weeks. He stated that “I want to personally commend the hard work of the Mushkegowuk First Nation members who have come together in this time of crises. Through their diligence and determination they have averted a potential regional disaster. Mushkegowuk Council will continue to do whatever we can to support their efforts.”