Lack of Federal Funding and Repairs Put Community at Risk
Fort Albany First Nation’s Chief and Council have issued a community-wide evacuation order as the Albany River’s rising water threatens to breach the community’s aging dike system. The dikes, which have failed twice before, pose a serious threat to the community’s essential services and critical infrastructure, including power, telecommunications, and safe drinking water. Furthermore, roads to the hospital and airport may be washed out in the event of flooding, which could cause significant harm to the community.
Despite being aware of the danger to the community, the federal government has not taken adequate measures to replace and rebuild the protective system. Chief Elizabeth Kataquapit stated that the community has been promised they are a top priority for vital repairs, but no communication has been received about funding or workplans.
A state of emergency was declared on April 28, and vulnerable community members, such as Elders, children, and expecting mothers, were evacuated last month as a precautionary measure. Some community members remain in the community to protect vital infrastructure, while others have been airlifted to Kapuskasing and Niagara Falls.
Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum of Nishnawbe Aski Nation expressed her concern about the lack of necessary supports for evacuees, with some fleeing their initial host community over safety concerns. She urged host communities to welcome them with compassion and friendship, acknowledging the traumatic nature of evacuations.
The federal government’s failure to repair the network of dikes has resulted in fatalities in the past, and the risk remains a constant threat to the community. These dikes also serve as roadways, further highlighting the importance of repairing them. The community looks to the governments of Ontario and Canada for assistance in ensuring the safety of their citizens.