Community crisis prompts Attawapiskat First Nation to halt traffic in downtown Timmins



    TIMMINS, ON, Aug. 12 /CNW/ - On July 25, 2009, ninety members of
Attawapiskat First Nation were evacuated from their community to the town of
Cochrane, On 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 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 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 have the
authority to declare a state of emergency. But in this latest crisis, Canada
and Ontario have both turned their backs on Attawapiskat First Nation.
    "There is a tentative date for the 90 evacuees to return home on Friday
August 14, 2009," said Deputy Chief Theresa Spence. "Much work is being done
in the community before the people return home. Our staff is working hard to
ensure that the homes are safe and that appropriate temporary accommodations
are available by August 14."
    Greg Shisheesh, one of the community liaison officers, said 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," said Shisheesh. "Each member that has been evacuated to
Cochrane needs to have a health assessment done prior to returning home to the
community. The Porcupine Health Unit has agreed to carry out a health
assessment on Thursday, August 13, 2009."
    There is growing 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 meet with both levels of government as well as De Beers Canada on
the following points:

    
    1.  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.  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.  Attawapiskat 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 Attawapiskat First Nation demands that the Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada and the provincial government 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?" he said.
    A protest will be held in Timmins on Friday August 14, 2009. It will
commence at 10 a.m. at Hollinger Park with protestors marching to the De Beers
office on Pine Street in downtown Timmins. This is the third protest of the
week, which saw peaceful demonstrations in Cochrane, Ontario on Aug. 10, 2009
and in Chapleau, Ontario on Aug. 11, 2009. More demonstrations are planned for
Thunder Bay, Toronto and Ottawa next week.

    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; Deputy Chief Theresa Spence, Attawapiskat
First Nation, (807) 629-6704 cell; Grand Chief Stan Louttit, Mushkegowuk
Council, (705) 288-0157 cell

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ATTAWAPISKAT FIRST NATION

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