The federal government and the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation continue to lock horns about the community’s housing problem which first made headlines last fall.
Theresa Spence says her community is still in “a state of emergency” a year after it sounded the alarm about its housing problems.
Spence first called a state of emergency last October when families on the reserve were living in unheated tents and shacks, but the government sent 22 modular homes to the community after the issue exploded in the House of Commons.
Spence says she is still concerned about a construction trailer, provided by the De Beers diamond mine, which currently houses about 45 people. She says the trailer has a kitchen and a bathroom but it was supposed to be a band-aid solution.
“Right now, we are in the process of talking to Indian Affairs to put (forward) our emergency plan for these people,” Spence said. “We keep telling the government we need to do something about the people that are living in the trailer because it is not a place to live.”
Charlie Angus, the NDP MP who represents the riding encompassing the reserve, says the trailer issue could have been dealt with if the minister signed off on the agreement to build new homes. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) approved a plan to build 30 new duplexes in Attawapiskat through rents established at market rates.
But Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan says the ball is now in the community’s court.
“We’ve had many discussions with Attawapiskat First Nation over its housing issues,” Duncan said at press conference in Gatineau, Que. on Tuesday. “They were informed in May that the CMHC proposal was not workable without delivery of a housing plan which we had been promised for many months.”
Duncan says the government wants to cooperate with the community as it waits for this plan.
“The housing plan has to come from the community but we are prepared to offer resources including our own people to help bring it to fruition,” Duncan said.
In August, the Federal Court ruled the government’s appointment of an outside consultant tasked with handling the finances for an Ontario reserve was “contrary to law. The Toronto-based court ruled the decision to appoint a third party manager for Attawapiskat was “unreasonable in all the circumstances” of the case.