Occupy Attawapiskat – A First Nation Housing Crisis Primer

Note * This is a primer designed to bring folks up to speed. Trying very hard to keep up as this story develops. Latest updates are located at bottom of page. Thanks for the visit!

Human Mic: Mic Check!
Concerned Occupiers: Mic Check!
Human Mic: This is what democracy looks like!
Concerned Occupiers: This is what democracy looks like!

Or is it? You would be hard pressed to find a single soul in Attawapiskat First Nation that would agree with that.

As you may have read or heard in the media, the Attawapiskat First Nation located on the James Bay Coast in Ontario is in dire need – yet again – of proper housing as another cold Canadian winter sets in. However, one can only hope that this year will be different and move that agenda forward. I am writing this blog, not to offer solutions, because I know personally this has been an ongoing problem that persists from longer than I care to remember. I hope this rather to serve as a primer to bring new and old interested persons up to speed on the crisis. I believe I know of what I speak. Back in 1993 was the first time I visited the community while working for Wawatay Native Communication Society in Moose Factory. This was my introduction to working more or less independently as a video journalist and learned the issues. From then on, I had many opportunities to visit Attawapiskat during my three year tenure. Fast forward to last June. Again, I went along as a camera-person for a documentary team that wanted to bring the situation to light. Skeptical, yet curious I took on the task. In short it was nice to see some familiar faces and meet new folk from the community that carry on the struggle for a better future for the youth. Sadly, though, it was like I hadn’t missed a beat and found myself immersed in and exploring the same stories I had heard almost 17 years earlier. The situation brought to mine the Bruce Cockburn song The Trouble With Normal in which he postulates that Corporate interests and Third World will always clash. And if you have any doubts, I can attest that Attawapiskat is truly the Third World in our own back yard. Maybe it’s time to clean up our own back yard? With the proliferation of the Occupy movements here in North America who will speak for such a small population in a democratic country. Obviously, with such a tiny populous in a large country, they alone cannot sway the vote in their favor. However, as of late we have seen how social networks have served to level the playing field to a favorable degree, but yet the critical mass is still way out of reach. However, we do see with the media attention this story is now receiving – and rightfully so – the momentum is teetering and creeping toward the tipping point. Will the momentum be quashed once again by indifference? I for one hope not. Moreover, for whatever reason brought you to learn more and offer your support, I hope this effort generates dialogue for a much ignored problem and the powers that be note the paradigm is shifting. So with that said, I know it’s near impossible for many to physically Occupy Attawapiskat, we can certainly occupy it with support, good thoughts, prayers, donations and every imaginable means. It seem the plight of First Nation is the plight of all Occupy movements. Change is all that is asked.

Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?

And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal, is it always gets worse.

~ The Trouble With Normal – Bruce Cockburn

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Now by utilizing the above image, on might think that I am trying to be facetious, however, things can be further from the truth. Actually, the mock-up I did of the popular book for Dummies, I was tempted to replace ” for Dummies” with for Government. However, that would be unfair to one, Charlie Angus. The recent media attention that Attawapiskat is now getting can, in part, be credited to him and those individuals in the Attawapiskat willing to share their plight, thereby putting a face on this plight. Charlie Angus – MPP for Timmins James Bay in recent days has been leading a gallant campaign to both educate the general public and directing the rally cry toward the ears of the Feds, under whom First Nation are under their jurisdiction. His recent article ” Would if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came” appeared in the Huffington Post on-line on the 21st to start the ball rolling. This is as good a primer as can be offered up. Read the full article by clicking

here!

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Following is the YouTube video of Charlie Angus’ recent visit to Attawapiskat First Nation. It’s a must watch to get the gravity of the story. In the video you meet a young mother living in a makeshift tent with her children, a young boy with terrible rashes, but most importantly see the deplorable housing situation. So, not only is this a housing issue, it is also a health issue and impending crisis in that regard. As a heads up, in the video, we learn that currently there are five families living in tents; 19 families living in sheds without running water; 35 families living in houses needing serious repair; 128 families living in houses condemned from black mould and failing infrastructure; 118 families living with relatives (often 20 people in a small home); there are 90 people living in a construction trailer. There’s a need for 268 houses just to deal with the immediate backlog of homelessness. Though the video is embedded in the preceding article, you can watch it here. You can cut and paste the url and share. I encourage that you do do that. Watch now!

Assuming you have watched the preceding video, what follows next if a video of Member of Parliament – Charlie Angus makes a plea to call on the Feds to attend to the crisis – three weeks after the community of Attawapiskat asked the Feds to attend to their self-proclaimed emergency.

What follows is a summation of the above video Media Release from the office of Member of Parliament, Charlie Angus asking ” Where is the Action Plan?”

WHERE IS THE ACTION PLAN? Angus says Ottawa and Queen’s Park Missing in Action in Attawapiskat -2011 11 21 – Press Releases

Today in Question Period, Charlie Angus called on both levels of government to help the residents of Attawapiskat. Angus says it’s been 3 weeks since a state of emergency was declared due to poor and lack of housing.

“Not a single official of the federal or provincial government has bothered to visit the community to see first-hand the deplorable conditions. Not even one aid agency has stepped forward.”

Angus says conditions are deteriorating every day. “Temperatures have dropped 20 degrees and are likely to drop even more very soon. Families in makeshift tents and un-insulated sheds with no hydro or water are facing immediate risk.”

Immediate risk is the language that is being used by medical officials in the area. Residents are at risk of infection, disease and fire.

Angus says children are using a bucket as a toilet. “This is unacceptable in a rich country like Canada. This is the same community that houses one of the richest diamond mines in the western world.”

Angus is calling on both levels of government, as well as national aid agencies, to work with Attawapiskat to respond to the crisis.

You can find the press release here.

So has the media been reacting? I know for one that the message is getting through. I’ve yet to see a mainstream story, with the exception of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network who had Mr. Charlie Angus on their newscast on Wednesday the 23rd. Apparently, the missing in action aid agencies that Mr. Angus complained about are set to step up to bat and are set to consult with the community to see what capacity they can serve. I’m speaking of the Red Cross incidentally.

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You can find the interview in its entirety here.

So what happens next? My understanding is that Federal representatives of Aboriginal Affairs are scheduled to meet with Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat will meet in Thunder Bay today – today being November 24th, 2011, to announce some sort of strategy.

In conclusion, I hope that sheds some light and brings you up to speed on the crisis looming as the community of Attawapiskat prepares to confront yet another chilling winter. Who will occcupy? What you can do? I am aware that dialouge can be found on the recent facebook group called Attawapiskat- Making a Stand for our Children & our Elders. This can be found at this link. Log into your facebook and join a href=”https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123153503410
” target=”_blank”>here. Incidentally, this time two years ago an Elder named Sophie Spence did a 112km walk to raise awareness of the housing crisis which sadly went practically unnoticed in the media save for APTN and local media.

Also, I’ve noted dialogue is also happening at a new facebook group called Attawapiskat Housing Crisis – Fundraiser/ Awareness. You can ask to join here.

IMPORTANT – WHAT YOU CAN DO

You can write Members of Parliment. Both Provincial and Federal at these addresses to express your discontent and to let them know this situation is not acceptable. I found a recent editable note composed by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario that succinct and gets the message across effectively. Maybe use this as a guideline? I suggest you do so. It reads…

This action alert is to urge the federal and provincial governments to work together to immediately address the critical housing crisis currently taking place in Attawapiskat, Ontario.

As citizens, we are shocked by the life-threatening conditions in which residents of this community must live. We are deeply ashamed that federal and provincial officials point fingers at each other and refuse to take responsibility. As nurses, we are profoundly concerned about the danger of fires, freezing, infectious diseases, skin conditions, and mental health challenges that arise when people are forced to live in inhumane living conditions, particularly as winter approaches. People need warm, safe shelter, reliable plumbing, and safe drinking water to be healthy.

As we mark the passing of another National Housing Day, Canada remains the only major industrialized country without a national housing program. The hardship faced by millions of Canadians who are living in adequate or unaffordable housing is disproportionately borne by Aboriginal people, racialized communities, women, people with disabilities, seniors, and other marginalized groups. Now is the time for you as our elected leaders to immediately address the emergency in Attawapiskat and work together to ensure that every Canadian’s right to housing is met.

I don’t have all the addresses but, many are at the Registered Nurses found here.

Also, there is also an online petition site you can add your name to regarding this issue. Apparently, the the person who posted this petition and monitoring it has asked for 5000 signatures. However, it has surpassed the 6000 mark and it set to be sent off to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, John Duncan on this day, November 24th. If you act now, you may still be able to add your name? The petition site is here.

Direct emails and letters can be forwarded to:

Office of the Prime Minister Honourable John Duncan
House of Commons Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: pm@pm.gc.ca
E-mail: john.duncan@parl.gc.ca

Premier Dalton McGuinty Kathleen Wyne
Legislative Building Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Queen’s Park 160 Bloor St. East, 4th floor
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1 Toronto, ON M7A 2E6

E-mail: minister.maa@ontario.ca”

THIS JUST IN. Posted November, 24, 2011. This would be of interest to Toronto residents and those in the GTA. Message pasted from Zainab Amadahy:

FYI: The Attawapikat First Nation on the James Bay Coast declared a state of emergency three weeks ago and the provincial and federal government has failed to answer them. ~ JOIN US FOR A PEACEFUL RALLY AT THE ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT OFFICE IN TORONTO, 25 St.Clair Avenue East on Friday November 25, 2011 at12:00pm ~

Human Mic: Mic Check!
Concerned Attawapiskat Occupiers: Mic Check!
Human Mic: This is what democracy looks like!
Concerned Attawapiskat Occupiers: This is what democracy looks like!

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Watch this space! Just as a closing remark. As is was with occupiers of UC-Davis, who by their physical presence as “Occupiers”, who where subjected to excessive force by one Lte. John Pike by being sprayed with pepper spray, that is not a likely a possibility if collectively the concerned occupy on social networks like fb and spread the message accordingly. So, with that, I think I need to explain that the image depicted below is not to meant to offend, but rather presented to shock and wake you that some are comfortable with maintaining the status quo without qualms. The kids depicted here represent the future of Attawapiskat, whom yet do not have a political mindset, nor should they. These kids, however, – for those who know of the Atttawapiskat story – only want what their parents and Elder want…a better life. It’s been my experience on the occasions that I’ve visited that the youth are self aware and have formed opinions at a far too young age of their situation. Not by choice, but for survival. In fact, I remember vividly walking down the muddy June streets of Attawapiskat on a bleak damp day when I happened across about seven youth – both boys and girls – gathered around a trampoline playfully bouncing on it and singing at the top of their lungs the words to Wavin’ Flag by K’NAAN. It was moving and touched me deeply. Did they know what they were singing? I think they did. If not now, then I hope soon. Thanks for the visit. Spread the word!

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait for that fateful day
It’s not far away, but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag

Wavin’ Flag – K’NAAN

UPDATE! UPDATE! – Friday November 25, 2011 – UPDATE! UPDATE!

On Thursday, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat met with Federal representative of Aboriginal Affairs in Thunder Bay. It seems mixed messages were bantered around in the media as to a supposed $2 million dollar commitment. Read on…

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence maintained earlier Friday that aboriginal affairs representatives told her, during a meeting Thursday in Thunder Bay, that the government had pledged an additional $2 million on top of $500,000 that had already been committed.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Friday that no decision has been made to provide added funding to Attawapiskat to address a housing shortage, but his officials will travel to the northern Ontario reserve to ensure recent aid is being used effectively. “I’m saying we’ll send our people in to make some, help make some, decisions with the chief and council,”

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, a member of the NDP, told reporters Friday that the problem is lack of funding for the community and not local governance. “At the root of the problem in Attawapiskat is chronic underfunding, the inability of the community to ever get to first base,” Angus added, “That has been the problem all along and the refusal of the federal government, previously under the Liberals and now under the Conservatives, to get serious about dealing with the massive infrastructure backlog that’s hitting Attawapiskat, that’s hitting other communities.”

For full story, go here.

On another note. The Red Cross is set to send representative to the community to consult with the community as to what capacity they can serve. Will update just as soon as soon as something concrete occurs. Right now the offer is on the table. It looks like a positive step in the right direction though. Also, aid is offered from other parts of the globe, including Haiti! Stay tuned!

And finally, Musician and actor Tom Jackson visited the CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos to weigh in on the desperate living conditions in Attawapiskat.

“We have to say to them. If you don’t save the life of my child…then I’m not willing to vote for you.”

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Canadian Red Cross to support immediate needs in Attawapiskat

(TORONTO, November 26, 2011) – The Canadian Red Cross is mobilizing to help meet immediate needs in the community of Attawapiskat. The Red Cross continues to work closely with public authorities and the community to identify and address urgent, short-term needs. At the request of the community the Red Cross will also take on a donation management role to support these needs as identified.

“We have been working closely with public officials and Chief Theresa Spence to assess needs, determine the best course of action and how the Red Cross may be able to provide support,” says John Saunders, provincial director of disaster management for the Canadian Red Cross in Ontario.

According to Saunders, some of the needs currently identified include generators, heaters, insulated sleeping mats, blankets and winter clothing.

“Chief Spence has asked that the Red Cross provide support with donation management as the community has been inundated with offers of assistance,” says Saunders. “We are continuing to work closely with Chief Spence to identify what is needed immediately and make arrangements to get supplies into the community as soon as possible.”

Financial donations may be made online at http://www.redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through your local Canadian Red Cross office. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Attawapiskat” and can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Court, Mississauga, ON, L5R 3E9.

Source document can be found here.

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*****UPDATE**** NOVEMBER 30, 2011 *****UPDATE*****

So it appears mainstream has latched on to the story of Attawapiskat as did the public this week. Also, with the Red Cross and some media are on the ground, pictures and video are now making their way on to the screens across the country and around the world depicting the deplorable living conditions here in Canada’s own Third World. Moreover, Now that the outcry from the general public is gaining momentum, so has the “spin” in the media by those that are perceived as to being to blame. Here are just a few articles that caught my eye this week. First and foremost to feel the brunt of the outrage has been the Feds. PM Harper is first out of the gate to defend that his party have put 90 million toward the community in 6yrs saying that is $50,000 for every man, woman and child in the community. Read more here.

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“Obviously, we are not very happy that the results do not seem to have been achieved for that. We are concerned about that. We have officials looking into it and taking action,” ~ Prime Minister Harper

Also, taking a hit by the general public, is DeBeers, the richest diamond mine corporation in the world, which lies adjacent to Attawapiskat. Most wonder why is there no help from this giant corp who seems to be benefiting most from diamonds extracted from land that is essentially leased from the community. However, this is a
very complex issue that is need of education. Today, Tom Ormsby, Director of External & Corporate Affairs for De Beers came to the corporation’s defense explaining an Impact Benefit Agreement between the community and deBeers. Here is a letter I happened across. It reads as follows:

My name is Tom Ormsby and I’m the Director of External & Corporate Affairs for De Beers Canada. Before relocating to our head office, I was also a part of the senior management team that took the Victor Mine through construction and into operations and I have been involved with the community for a number of years in my role. In fact, I am in the community again this week as we have our second annnual career fair for students and community members tomorrow. Tonight we’re hosting a community social with traditional drummers and dancers and the Chief is among the dancers. For the past week, I’ve had in-person and phone meetings with Charlie Angus concering the current housing crisis in the community. We met again today when he was in the community.Like you – we have concerns about the housing situation in Attawapiskat First Nation, as the largest portion of our workforce comes from the community, which is a fly-in/fly-out community located 90 kilometres from the mine. Our company maintains a presence in the community with a two-person office (where I’m currently working from) and a training facility where we fly our training team in to conduct regular training programs with community members.To help with some background on our activities in the community, the Victor Mine was originally discovered in 1987. Since then, we have been working with the community through the various stages of exploration, advanced exploration, the feasibility study, the environmental assessment, construction starting in 2006 then operations starting in July 2008. At each stage of that development, a variety of agreements were put in place with the community to ensure their participation and local benefits. In November 2005 after three years of negotiation, a comprehensive Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) was reached between De Beers Canada and Attawapiskat First Nation. That agreement includes specific compensation and protocols to ensure Attawapiskat First Nation is the primary beneficiary of benefits available during the construction, operation and closure of the Victor Mine. Compensation includes items such as training, employment, business opportunities and direct financial compensation. The agreement also outlines our requirements and commitments in non-financial areas such as the environment and local cultural activities and practices. This agreement was voted on and ratified by the community in November 2005 before we began the construction of the Victor Mine. Under the IBA, a series of joint management committees were established to oversee the execution of the agreement.In 2009, a sewage backup in Attawapiskat displaced nearly 100 people. Although we had only been in operation for one year, we flew crews and project managers into the community at our expense to reconfigure previously donated multi-unit trailers into emergency housing for those displaced by the situation. These trailers are the same type still being used today by a number of our own employees at our mine, which is also fly-in/fly-out. Working with the community over a period of a couple of weeks, we were able to complete that project just before the first snow. The value of the trailers combined with the costs to deliver them to the community, redesign and install them totaled more than $3 million – a cost covered by De Beers Canada.In 2009/2010, De Beers Canada funded consultant work on behalf of Attawapiskat First Nation so the community could undertake a comprehensive study into their housing situation. This work included identifying the housing needs and deficiencies as well as the development of a plan for the community to address its housing shortage. Our understanding is that this was later submitted by Attawapiskat First Nation to the federal government.These two major activities were over and above the formal commitments we have in our IBA. De Beers Canada is continuing to work with the community through the IBA to ensure we maximize benefits to the community. Since the start of construction, over $325 million in contracts have been awarded to solely owned or joint venture companies run by the community. Just this year alone, contracts awarded to the community total $51 million. Earlier in this note I referred to the training facility we are operating in the community. In fact, this was the second training facility that we constructed and donated to the community at a combined cost of almost $2 million. The community runs the other facility. Every year for more than five years, we have been purchasing and delivering new books to every child in the community from kindergarten to Grade 12 as part of a program to grow literacy and education levels in the community. We also have in place a scholarship program. In support of the efforts for a new school, we donated project trailers, helped the community review a design proposal and offered our project management expertise. These efforts can help reduce some of the key start-up costs in the construction of a new school. Although the Victor Mine is a small mine by both physical size and production (in fact it is the smallest diamond mine in Canada with the shortest life-of-mine of the four existing diamond mines in Canada), we are proud of the commitment of our team to all of our community partners – including Attawapiskat First Nation – in just three years of operation. I hope this information is helpful to you and provides you some assurance that De Beers Canada is committed to maximizing the benefits for our community partners in Attawapiskat First Nation and across the country in our other areas of operation. Since the earliest stages of our relationship, the community has made it quite clear to us that our role is not to become involved in matters that are under the jurisdiction of the community and other levels of government. When community issues arise outside the IBA or our direct responsibility such as housing, we will continue to work with our partners to play whatever support role our resources and expertise allow.If you would any additional information, please feel free to contact me directly and I would be happy to follow up.All the best,Tom OrmsbyDirector, External & Corporate AffairsDe Beers CanadaSuite 900, 250 Ferrand DriveToronto, On416 645 1710, ext 2151tom.ormsby@debeerscanada.com

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So, the gloves are off, fingers are pointing and fur seems to be flying. We will see how thing unfold? Moreover, despite the crux of this media flurry was initiated by the immediate housing crisis, it appears the residents of Attawapiskat are taking advantage of the media attention to bring to light many of the other social ills that plague this small community. The local First Nation Band Office seems to be “occupied” as it were. Stay tuned1

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So as the Feds, province and the community meet to attend to immediate needs of the community some others think the best solution is to simply shut the community down. Uhm, yeah that oughta work!

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No Canadian politicians will say it, but the only solution for places like Attawapiskat is to stop subsidizing their existence. While inhabitants should not be forced from their homes, they should not be provided with a taxpayer-funded incentive to stay in destitute areas. Instead, the money should be used to resettle inhabitants in less remote places, where a new generation of aboriginals actually has a chance to live the Canadian dream.

Read full article printed in today’s National Post here.

And this just in! The Conservatives have now chosen to put Attawapiskat under “third party management”, which essentially means they are taking the financial reigns from the community. Moreover, they are launching an investigation into looking into recent audits and following the paper trail to see where the money went. All $90 million of it! Stay tuned! Read on. Source via the Globe and Mail found
here.

*** UPDATE *** December 1, 2011 *** UPDATE ***

Further to my last posted update yesterday. Obviously, with the announcement that Attawapiskat has now been place under third party management by the Feds, Chief Thersa Spence is livid and suspects that by this action the Feds are sending the message to other First Nations ” embarass us and look what will happen”. Timmin James Bay MP, Charlie Angus is of the same mind. At to where the $90 million went, asks PM Harper? Well apparently someone is not doing his/her job because the Fed have someone in the community to co-manage the finances of the community. That person should have sent red flags a long time ago, given that person is to report back intermittently. Moreove, it’s been reported that the Feds have visited the community no less than 10 times this year. Apparently, blindly, because no one person apparently never note while there that maybe there was a housing crisis? Anyways, links to more on this…

Where the $90 million went. A comprehensive analysis by someone more informed and competent than I. Harper said Attawapiskat got $90 million, where did it all go!? Read on here!

Federal officials visited Attawapiskat 3 times in October, triggered no red flags on housing View article here!

“Their solution is to blame the community. Why is it when a First Nation community is in distress does this government’s response is in contempt.” ~ Charlie Angus MP Timmins-James Bay

“The government that should be placed under this party management is the government across the aisle,” said Rae. “This government is all hat, no cattle.” ~ Liberal interim leader Bob Rae

“Unlike the party opposite when it was in government, this government is prepared and determined to ensure results with those funds. That is why the people of Canada placed the Liberal party under third-party management.” ~ PM Harper

Full article for above topic and quote can be found here!

So, the partisan gloves are on. The passion of all players are peaked and the nation and much of the world is watching. Watch this space.

Finally, today, Assembly of First Nation Chief Shawn Atleo is scheduled to meet with PM Harper in the afternoon. Atleo: Time to stop “finger-pointing” on Attawapiskat and “smash the status quo”

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Article and video here!

RE: Latest developoment as of my time of posting today. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Duncan is now pointing the finger at Angus accusing him of not informing him of the deplorable and looming housing crisis. He claims he only became aware of the crisis October 28th in a recent CBC interview, immediately contradicting himself telling CBC they’ve been attending to Attawapiskat by having had his representative visit at least 10 times since April this year. Media now chastising him for this BIG faux pas. In the House of Commons today, when asked, he staying the course and reading directly off a prepared script. In other news. Nothing regarding the meeting with PM Harper and National Chief Atleo. Stay tuned. This is sure to be a long drawn out “knock ’em down, drag ’em out, no holds-barred fight”. Things are really heating up. Stay tuned! Err wait….Just found!

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The interviews with both Duncan [left] and Angus [right] who coincidentally meet on a stairwell in the House of Commons as CBC reporter, Julie Van Deusen, corrals them both in a scrum. In between interviews, Angus takes a verbal jab at Duncan with words something to the affect that Angus is putting Duncan on notice of the Attawapiskat crisis and to not be caught flat-footed. Video can be found here.

*** UPDATE **** December 2, 2001 *** UPDATE ***

Chief of Attawapiskat speaks via a Press Release for public consumption to the position of the First Nation being placed under third-party management to effectively “decapitate” the communtiy – figuratively speaking -as Charlie Angus has expressed. Some quotes highlights are as follows:

“The taxpayers of Ontario and Canada should be made aware that the majority of the $94M received to support the Attawapiskat First Nation over that past six years from Aboriginal Affairs does not remain or circulate in our community. The majority of these funds go to support the greater economy of Northern Ontario and Canada for goods, materials, services, contractors, legal advice and auditing services to mention a few, which in turn support urban northern communities such as Timmins, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Toronto, Kenora and Winnipeg to name a few. The majority of these firms are non Aboriginal tax-payers.”

“On our traditional lands, that we once shared in the past with the visitors to our land, our lands, have proven to be bountiful in natural resources, and have been a benefit to all of Ontario, and Canada, but we were left behind. In our territory, we have a world class diamond mine, the pride of the Canadian, and Ontario governments, as well as De Beers Canada. They have every right to be proud of that mine, but…While they reap the riches, my people shiver in cold shacks, and are becoming increasing ill, while precious diamonds from my land grace the fingers, and necklaces of Hollywood celebrities, and the mace of the Ontario Legislature.”

For the full Press Release, visit here.

What follows is a clip from yesterday’s scrum outside the House of Commons. Many of the pressing issues in regards to the Feds response to the housing crisis are posed and answered here by a passionate and charged Charlie Angus.

“What they’re going to do in Attawapiskat. They’re going to move people into this hockey arena. You know what this hockey areana is? It’s not like a hockey arena that Tony Clement builds. This is a shed with ice. Their solution is that they’re going to take families and put them in a shed with ice. There is no showers there. There is no adeqate heating and then they’re going to walk away on them because there is no plan. You haven’t heard a single word from them that they are going to have a long-term housing solution.” Link directly to quote by clicking here.

On Prime Minister’s focus on the alleged missing $90 million.

“I think Mr. Harper did a very calculated move. He basically blew the dog whistle for certain basic Canadians. He said, “Bad Indians. Taxpayers dollars.” He didn’t have to say anything more. The day that they misrepresented the money. That they exagerrated the way it was being spent. That they didn’t tell Canadians that there is online audits. What that says to his base is “Damn right! Be hard on them.” But what I’m hearing from the rest of Canadians is ” This is a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Why is that the government is at this point blaming the victim lying on the ground? Saying, you know what? We are going to punish you even further. If there are questions about finances? Sure! But nobody ever stops in the Red River in the middle of a flood and says “Hey! How come we’re throwing this money at your communities that keep flooding? No they don’t say that. All Canadians rally. All Canadians help out. But, when it’s one of our communities in the North, when it’s First Nation kids it’s like ” Hey! What did you do with our taxpayers dollars? That speaks volumes I think for the subtle, less than subtle message that’s given out here. It’s the politics of division.” Link directly to quote by clicking here.

Watch full scrum below. Running time is 5m59s

More later folks. Thanks for the visit!

Clarence Michon is a broadcast journalist and filmmaker who has worked primarily on issues pertaining to Canada’s First Nation affairs. He has worked extensively along the Eastern James Bay coast including the community of Attawapiskat on many occasions. Link directly to quote by clicking here.

*** UPDATE *** DECEMBER 8, 2011 *** UPDATE***

WOW! Busy week, both personally and with this story. Anyways, I’ve been following and there’s is just so much happening it’s hard to keep up. In any event, here are the highlights of the week that caught my attention.

This week many Chiefs under the umbrella of the Assembly of First Nations met in Ottawa for National meeting. Big on the agenda was the Attawapiskat situation. The chiefs voted unanimously in favour of a motion that calls for, among other things, first nations to stand behind Attawapiskat and its leadership and for the membership of the Assembly of First Nations to ask the United Nations to monitor Canada’s actions. Moreover, a small assembly of Chiefs marched to Parliment Hill demanding a meeting with the Feds and threating action for future blocks directed at existing pipelines benefitting from resources on First Nation’s land. The term “resource sharing” seemed to be the rallying chant for the day. Once at the Parliment’s Centre Block, , they met with Charlie Angus, but their peaceful demonstration was circumvented when the RCMP arrived to whisk them from the steps to the Parliment. Cheif Theresa Spence forewarned that “This is only the beginning, only the beginning, this is a warning to the government that we are going to be more aggressive, that we are going to do it together,” It appears, come Spring Chiefs west of Ontario promise to circumvent Article and video can be found here.

“Canada saw for the first time last week what we see every day … This is a national disgrace. We have reason to feel angry and betrayed…The way forward is based on respectful treaty implementation and an equitable share of resources from [first-nations] land, not imposed punitive unilateral action.” ~ Shaun Atleo,National Chief – The Assembly of First Nations

Jacques Marion, the man selected by the government to step in and take over the handling of the roughly $17-million that flows annually from Ottawa to the reserve, was told to go home when he turned up in Attawapiskat on Monday. Apparently, he continues to work remotely representing the consulting firm BMO and charges $1500 a day.

MP Timmims James Bay responded “What they’ve done is taken $300,000 out of this band’s limited budget for political cover to pay for the mistakes of an incompetent minister…They have to shut down programs to pay for this guy.” ~ Charlie Angus – MP Timmins James Bay

Read on here.

“We need to stop building crap. It’s as simple as that.” ‘The smartest thing we can do is to teach the First Nations how to do it.’

Words spoken by Canada’s most famous — and outspoken — home renovator, Mike Holmes. He went on to elaborate that the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple. Full article here.

15 modular homes on the way! Window dressing? Band Aid solution. Justification for 3rd Party Management? Read on here.

Incidentally, it is expected Mike Holmes will make an appearance at the AFN National Cheifs meeting. However, no details available to the specifics of that meeting are as of yet.

Also, the Red Cross has announced that December 8th will be their last day of involvment of the crisis, citing they have done what within their capacity to do in the short-term by seeing those most in need requirements have been met. They also promise to monitor the situation and are readily available should further need of assistance arise. Full article New Release
here.

That’s it for the moment. G’day and thanks for the visit. Stay tuned. And just as a sign-off I included the following video depicting RAMBO as Indian] NDN Rambo in a scene from the ending of First Blood. Not to belittle the seriousness of Attawapiskat’s plight, but to sort of parody the ridiculousness of the inaction of the government.



*** UPDATE *** Decemeber 14, 2011 *** UPDATE ***

Seemingly, things have slowed down. However the media has certainly maintained the coverage thanks to the many good grassroots who have been feeding this to the media. With the third party in place and purchasing modular homes and Chief Theresa Spence being unrelenting in her comments toward that avenue and comments directed at Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Duncan, this game is not over. More about the short-term modular home “solution” from a reaction by Chief Spence here.

Also, I recently read article in the UK, Finland, Australia etc..press. It’s an international affair and this is going to play out on an international media “scrum”. From every “wing” left and right of center, people seem to know the answer. However, seemingly, little is being done in terms of the long term. Christmas is upon us. Politics will take a break, yet the crisis goes on. In any event, this meeting Thursday? Who knows the outcome? All’s I know is that the Government of Canada does not bring coal to the table, as opposed to a a more positive solution. I know quit fixes or “gift” is going to make this go away for Duncan, who more by the day seems Duncan is set to be the “fall guy”? Just my observations. In closing, it’s been learned DeBeers sewage affluent was a contributor to the sewage fail of a couple years back. Moreover, the Chief is threatening to sue reports the Aboriginal Television Network.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan will meet face-to-face with Chief Theresa Spence this Thursday, in an attempt to clarify Ottawa’s role in resolving the housing crisis in Attawapiskat.

The meeting will take place in Thunder Bay, Ont., instead of in Ottawa or on the northern Ontario reserve.

Duncan and Spence previously met with one another last week, but the Attawapiskat chief left unsatisfied when the minister refused to budge on imposing third-party management on her reserve.

The minister later drew fire from Spence when he claimed that band leaders were ready to work with the government appointee who is tasked with handling the day-to-day finances of the reserve.

Spence said she never agreed to third-party management in Attawapiskat and later called for Duncan’s resignation. She has also threatened to sue Ottawa over the third-party management issue.

More here.

Time is of the essence here. Stay tuned.

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3 Comments on “Occupy Attawapiskat – A First Nation Housing Crisis Primer”

  1. Jill Walker Says:

    Disturbing that after generations this continues to be how We as Canadians become complacent and see other third worlds as needing our assistance. What about Attawapiskat?

  2. Rick Giles Says:

    Thank you for the update and please keep them coming.

  3. Sam Says:

    Excellent recap – just one thing I noticed…Charlie Angus is MP for Timmins James Bay – not MPP.


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