The people of Kashechewan First Nation unanimously choose to remain on their traditional homelands

    TORONTO, March 19 /CNW/ - Kashechewan Chief Jonathan Solomon met with
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Jim Prentice on Thursday
March 15 to present the Minister with the results of an extensive community
consultation. "My people have spoken, loudly and clearly. The people of
Kashechewan want to remain on their traditional homelands," stated Chief
    The community consultation process was held in order to obtain community
input and feedback on the report of federal representative, Mr. Allan Pope,
released on October 31, 2006. Mr. Pope's report recommended relocating the
people of Kashechewan to outside of Timmins, Ontario at an approximate cost of
$200 million. "The people carefully considered the recommendations made by Mr.
Pope but clearly do not want to leave their traditional lands. The land is
fundamental to our identity as Cree people, it is not enough to simply spend
two weeks per year hunting on the land," said Chief Solomon. The majority of
those polled selected Site 5, which is approximately 30 kilometres upriver,
and on higher ground, from the current community location.
    Dr. Emily J. Faries, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, and a
professor at Laurentian University, was hired to assist the community in
coordinating the community consultation. Dr. Faries explained that 95% of the
863 people polled indicated that they preferred to remain on their traditional
homelands. Dr. Faries indicated that the Pope report did not include any
numbers detailing who was polled and what the results were.
    "It is unfortunate that Minister Prentice has been throwing around the
figure of $500 million for the relocation to site 5, when in fact there has
been no reliable cost analysis completed for the relocation to site 5," stated
Chief Solomon. Chief Solomon indicated that he is confident that there is a
common ground solution that can be found and that it will take good faith
negotiations and the necessary political will.
    "This Minister made a commitment to acting on the situation our community
is in when he was appointed Minister. He demanded the resignation of former
Minister Andy Scott over the former governments' inaction. Now it is time for
Minister Prentice and this government to fulfill the commitment they made and
work with us to take the necessary action to begin addressing the safety of
the people of Kashechewan," said the Chief.
    Chief Solomon indicated that repairs and renovations have been made to
some homes in the community, and the water issues have been stabilized.
However, the dyke surrounding the community has not been secured and the
spring thaw is approaching potentially putting the safety of the people of
Kashechewan once again at risk.
    The Chief indicated that Minister Prentice agreed to contact the
Kashechewan Chief and Council in two weeks time to discuss this issue further.
    "Minister Prentice made statements following the release of the Pope
report indicating that the community would decide the best course of action
for their future. Now they have and he appears to be balking at the result of
an extensive community-driven consultation process and this is simply
unacceptable," stated Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. Regional Chief Toulouse
pointed out that the community has taken ownership of their future and should
be supported in implementing the changes that they need.
    The Regional Chief further stated that the federal government has the
resources necessary to begin making a significant investment toward addressing
Kashechewan's most pressing needs given the projected federal surplus of
$8-9 billion dollars for this fiscal year. "I am interested to see if this
government uses the opportunity of a new federal budget to identify resources
to respond to the needs in Kashechewan and in other First Nation communities,
given their repeated commitment to closing the gap in the quality of life
between First Nations and other Canadians. It is time to move beyond the
rhetoric to action. We will be watching the budget announcement very closely,"
stated Regional Chief Toulouse.

For further information:

For further information: Pam Hunter, Policy Advisor, (905) 683-0322 or
(613) 203-3233

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Chiefs of Ontario

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