12 September 2015

#42 Let Her Drink Tea

Attawapiskat is a community with numerous challenges. It entered Treaty 9 in the 1930s (very late) and many of the members of the community only moved into the town in the 1960s. The town has problems with the quality of water (even boiling it will not render it safe for human contact) and with housing. The Wikipedia article linked from the beginning of this post estimates the cost of building a single home in the community at $250,000, in part due to the remoteness of the community and difficulties related to transporting building materials.

The response of the outgoing government was typically simplistic and vindictive. They’re managing the money badly, they said, ignoring the fact that management under the Indian Act and under the co-management arrangement imposed on the community tied the community’s hands and left a lot of decision-making power outside their control. We’ve sent $90 million to that community since we came to power in 2006, said the Prime Minister, conflating all of the spending on health, education, social services and housing to make it sound like it was for housing alone. According to my own quick and dirty calculation, that amounts to less than $9,700 per person per year, which is less than half of what my subsidized HIV medication costs, so I can’t imagine how far that might go in a community where (again from Wikipedia) six apples and four small bottles of juice cost $23.50.

In the face of yet another winter of suffering and a state of emergency declared by the Attawapiskat council, Chief Theresa Spence went to Ottawa to plead on behalf of her people. She camped on Victoria Island in the middle of the Outaouais River and began a hunger strike to try to get a meeting with the Prime Minister. Crickets from 24 Sussex Drive. A couple of offers to meet with lesser officials and some scolding from others, but no meeting.

Just another indication of the seriousness with which the outgoing government has treated the issues of deplorable living conditions in First Nations communities.

Further reading here

Too “proud” to meet her
but vindictive enough to
vilify the Chief

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