Kachechewan Evacuees Headed Home

Residents from Kashechewan arriving at Thunder Bay International Airport. Photo by TBIAA.
Residents from Kashechewan arriving at Thunder Bay International Airport. Photo by TBIAA.

THUNDER BAY – The Elders and Children from Kashechewan are headed home. As of Monday, May 9th, 2016, Chief and Council feels that as of this morning, after the Elders took the Surveillance flight to check the amount of ice left and the river level, have judged we were out of danger. Based on the Elder’s recommendations, Chief and Council have formally rescinded the Pre-emptive evacuation on the Emergency Declaration for our members due to potential Flood Risks. The evacuation has been very frustrating and has been especially hard on our Elders and children. We are glad that the danger is now over and feel confident and pray they will be safe returning home. The repatriation will start as soon as tomorrow and the necessary arrangements are being made for everybody to be home safe.

Our members both at home and in Kapuskasing are miserable and angry at how past agreements with the Government of Canada has unraveled to this date. They are concerned about the dyke safety and can see the panic measures put in place by INAC every spring. My people need to have comfort and safety in real terms to their lives. My people need to maintain their connection with the river in social, cultural and traditional ways and their spiritual being with the land, that they have always done and their ancestors before them. They now feel that all of these are lost by the way the government handle our people in the past ten years, The recent health scare with our children and the many suicides that we had to deal with over the winter months shows that our members recognize that many different factors affect their health and lifestyle. We, as Leaders must look at these factors in a holistic way and not just address the symptoms.

This evacuation and our children’s health concerns since last month outline the many different root issues causing an unsafe environment for our members. This is not just statements made by ourselves but also by professionals experienced in their chosen fields that point to many inter- related issues involving the aging infrastructure and overcrowding of homes.

Chief and Council has recently renewed discussions with the Government of Canada to enact a past Memorandum of Understanding from 2007 and a prior commitment from 2005, with respect to the above. While there will be no quick and easy solutions, this discussion could lead to a common understanding of the base issues affecting many similar First Nations and how to resolve the issues on a Nation to Nation basis.

Chief and Council wishes to extend a deep gratitude and thank you to all parties that have assisted on the Evacuation. The involvement of different Federal and Provincial agencies and other Non-Government Organization’s (NGO’s) helped make a difficult situation as comfortable as possible for our members. We salute the commitment shown by all parties involved in the evacuation.

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