Red tape stalling Attawapiskat progress
The New Democrat MP representing the embattled community of Attawapiskat says federal red tape is stalling progress in the remote First Nation. "The level of bureaucracy that makes simple things so difficult in these communities, it's needlessly heartbreaking," he told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
Despite government insistence that cash is flowing to Attawapiskat, Angus said leaders are still struggling to pay housing workers and circulate money to other projects such as local schools.
"Imagine any other municipality being told ‘Build a subdivision or pay your teachers,'" he said.
The first of 22 pre-fabricated homes arrived in Attawapiskat Saturday, reigniting hopes that discourse has turned into progress for the northern Ontario native community. Two more units arrived on Sunday.
But Angus says the delivery doesn't resolve numerous logistical problems in the troubled First Nation.
He noted that bone-chilling temperatures and tough, wet terrain will make it difficult to build the modular housing units, which may not be ready to live in until mid-March. "It's a really difficult deal to actually do any kind of construction in frozen muskeg in February," he said, referring to the wet, acidic soil found in the area.
Weather has been a persistent challenge for technical crews trying to remedy the community's housing crisis. Each modular housing unit must travel along an icy winter road, which Angus says is typically only open about two months of the year.
The ice-road became usable on Saturday after weeks of above-normal temperatures but traffic clogged the artery so severely that only one home could make the trip. "If you don't work with the weather, the weather's going to work against you," Angus said in a Skype interview from Timmins, Ont.
Complicating matters, crews must lay the foundation for the first few houses, a process that Angus worries may be premature.
"In February, the ground shifts," he said. "I think they would prefer to set up temporary foundations and then move the houses in the spring…when the ground is better."
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has said he's concerned that sites for all 22 of the promised units won't be ready before warm weather closes the road to the community near James Bay.
The government's current plan is to get all the homes to Attawapiskat while the ice road is still open and then try to hammer out other details such as when residents can move in, CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian reported Saturday.
However, Angus said community residents have told him they worry that the construction of the homes is being rushed. "Their concern is they're being ordered to put all the foundations in and make this happen now so that the government can walk away," he said.
Meanwhile, a financial tug-of-war between the First Nation and the government remains unresolved.
Last fall, the federal government appointed a third-party manager to run Attawapiskat's finances. The community sought an injunction to remove the manager but it was turned down by a federal court judge.
Red tape stalling Attawapiskat progress: NDP MP | CTV Winnipeg