Attawapiskat First Nation to Halt Traffic on Highway 11 to Bring Attention to Crisis in their community



    COCHRANE, ON, Aug. 10 /CNW/ - On July 25, 2009, 90 members of the
Attawapiskat First Nation were evacuated from their community to the town of
Cochrane, Ontario when sewage back up contaminated eight of their housing
units. The Chief and Council had declared a state of emergency; however their
declaration fell on deaf ears. Both the Department of Indian Affairs and
Emergency Measures Ontario did not consider the sewage problem as an emergency
and therefore would not support the evacuation of the families. The Chief and
Council then took matters into their own hands and evacuated their members at
their own expense.
    "It is shameful that our community members have no other way to have
their voices heard than to stand along a highway, but the federal and
provincial governments have turned a deaf ear on us in our time of need," said
Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Hall.
    In a 1992 agreement between the federal and provincial governments, both
levels of governments have agreed that the Chief and Council of a First Nation
community would have the authority to declare a state of emergency. But in
this latest crisis, Canada and Ontario have both turned their backs on the
Attawapiskat First Nation.
    There is no current timeframe for when the 90 Attawapiskat residents will
be able to return home. Deputy Chief Theresa Spence indicated "there is much
work to be done in the community before the people return home. Our staff are
working hard to ensure that the homes are safe and that appropriate temporary
accommodations are available soon."
    Greg Shisheesh, one of the community liaison officers, indicated that
there is growing concern about the health and well-being of the people that
have been evacuated to Cochrane. "With the H1N1 pandemic we are very concerned
that there may be a serious outbreak soon. Each member that has been evacuated
and here in Cochrane needs to have a health assessment done prior to their
returning home."
    There is growing concern unrest with the leadership and community members
due to the current and historic grievances that the community has filed with
the governments, but still no action is seen. The leadership has expressed a
desire to have a meeting with both levels of government and De Beers Canada on
the following points:

    
    1. The Attawapiskat First Nation deserves a safe community. The
       infrastructure of the community needs to be assessed and remediated,
       the condition and serious lack of housing in the community needs to
       be resolved.
    2. The Attawapiskat First Nation deserves the same standard of education
       as any citizen in Canada. The community has been without a proper
       elementary school for the past 10 years.
    3. The Attawapiskat First Nation desires to be out of the state of
       poverty that it currently is in. The wealth of the De Beers Victor
       mine is not reaching the community.
    

    The leadership of the Attawapiskat First Nation demands that the federal
and provincial governments and De Beers Canada meet with the community
immediately to begin addressing the above points.
    Grand Chief Stan Louttit is imploring both levels of government and De
Beers Canada to work with the First Nation in addressing important community
issues. "A peoples can only take so much. Why is it that we have to resort to
some form of civil disobedience to have our voice heard?" stated the Grand
Chief.

    The Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote community on the west coast of
James Bay with a population of 1,800 on reserve and a total population of
2,300 and is approximately 700 kilometres north of Timmins, Ontario.




For further information:

For further information: Chief Theresa Hall, Attawapiskat First Nation,
(705) 997-2166, (705) 365-8507 cell

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ATTAWAPISKAT FIRST NATION

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