Government will evacuate Attawapiskat if necessary
The federal government says it will evacuate some makeshift homes in the troubled northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat while housing and other supplies are brought in.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan made the offer in a letter sent to Chief Theresa Spence on Wednesday.
In the note, he said another option is to retrofit a local sportsplex and a healing centre to serve as short-term housing.
According to Duncan's letter, an assessment determined that 15 modular homes are needed to accommodate families that are currently living in makeshift housing, including tents. Duncan said the third-party manager, which the federal government had appointed to oversee the community after the housing crisis garnered national media attention and led to questions about the reserve's finances, is prepared to purchase the homes right away.
They would be delivered as soon as the winter roads open.
"I again cannot stress enough the need to work with the third-party manager, our government and our partners to ensure the health and safety of the community," Duncan wrote.
"I believe the two options above are fair and reasonable offers."
In the letter, Duncan also said wood stoves, compost toilets and cots were being sent to the community. Duncan also offered additional health-care resources.
It wasn't clear late Wednesday what Spence's response to the letter might be. The third-party manager has already left the community at the request of the band council, which resented his presence.
Spence told a news conference on Tuesday that the problem in her community is not related to the reserve's finances, which are laid bare in quarterly audits.
Also on Tuesday, the Assembly of First Nations unanimously agreed to ask the United Nations to examine whether the federal government was meeting its obligations to the community under both Canadian and international treaties.
Attawapiskat has been in a state of emergency for nearly a month, after calling for help from Ottawa amid a housing crisis that has left dozens of families living in tents and trailers with winter approaching.
Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel says it's time to call in the military to help the approximately 2,000 residents of Attawapiskat.
Turmel said the northern Ontario reserve is in need of supplies that are hard to bring in due to the weather conditions and the absence of a road into the community.
"Moving supplies into this community to alleviate the housing crisis will require an extraordinary level of co-ordination," Turmel said in a Wednesday letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the winter road will not be ready for nearly two months, the community is seeking co-ordinated logistical help. For this reason, they have asked me to convey that they are asking for military support to help in the response."
Turmel said the current situation in Attawapiskat is no different than previous emergencies in which the government sent the military in.
"Our military has played an incredible role at times of other humanitarian crises in Canada. I am sure that you will agree that the conditions facing people in Attawapiskat are dire and likely to get worse as the winter sets in," Turmel said in her letter.
"I am asking you today to act immediately and target resources, including military resources as requested by the community, towards building adequate housing in Attawapiskat."
Government will evacuate Attawapiskat if necessary | CTV Winnipeg
Not perfect, but at least it's a start (finally).