Attawapiskat Issues Statement on Current Situation

Some of the requests from youth in Attawapiskat
Some of the requests from youth in Attawapiskat

ATTAWAPISKAT – Recently, Attawapiskat First Nation has received assistance from the governments of Ontario and Canada in response to the “Declaration of Emergency” in our community over a sudden increase in suicide attempts in our community that overwhelmed our community’s resources to react.

We are thankful for their response to meet the immediate needs of our community.

We are thankful for the assistance provided by the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council and the response teams from Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which provided secondary aide and response in reply to our community front line-workers, and our local front line response teams who responded first to provide for the care needed for their fellow community members.

When Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Community Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, and Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services, Tracy MacCharles, visited Attawapiskat and, upon their presentation provided $2 million of assistance which is comprised of $1.5 million for the deployment costs of Ontario’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT) to our community to augment and support existing community medical resources for a period of 30 days, and $0.5 million to fund a Regional Youth Coordinator through the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council, who will provide resources on a regional basis which will be shared with seven other member communities of the Tribal Council.

Springtime brings welcome warmth but fears of flooding in Attawapiskat and Kashechewan - Photo by Rosiewoman Cree
Springtime brings welcome warmth but fears of flooding in Attawapiskat and Kashechewan – Photo by Rosiewoman Cree

While the assistance provided by Ontario was immediate, there is an opportunity to further discuss ongoing and enhanced support for the community.

Canada’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, and Health Canada Senior Executive Keith Conn recently visited the community and brought a promise of a youth centre, community, and land-based healing programs based at our former Healing Lodge.

Although no specific details were provided either department their desire appears to be strong, and is a comfort to community members and leadership during this time of crisis.

Members of our newly created Youth Council have been asked to join our federal counterparts in Ottawa to share their concerns, and we look forward to senior governments to head their concerns, and to draw upon their views in the preparation of programs that affect us

Chief Bruce Shisheesh states, “The problems of our community were not created overnight, they have festered overtime, and are now only becoming exposed. We need a long period of stability to heal and regain the hope that we have misplaced due to our chronic issues. We want to work with all levels of government to provide help for our community so we can cast off this shadow and move forward.”

Chief Shisheesh went on to further comment, “We need to have our own people to provide for our needs, we need the assistance, we need the stability provided by providing adequate housing. We need these items so that families have a safe environment to grow, and to restore hope for all generations that tomorrow will be a better day.”

“We are thankful for those across Canada and internationally that are keeping the concerns of the Attawapiskat people in the forefront of people’s concerns, although we have received offers of assistance, we are cautiously optimistic for our future, and in the ability of Canada and Ontario to provide resources for our healing journey”.

Attawapiskat First Nation is located on the north shore of the Attawapiskat River, 500 kilometers north of Timmins, Ontario. The community of Attawapiskat has an on-reserve population of 2,100 members, and whose traditional territories encompasses areas of the Ekwan, Attawapiskat and Lawashi River Basins.

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