Attawapiskat situation is an embarrassment to Canada

The conditions that exist in Attawapiskat, the First Nations community in James Bay, should not exist as a way of life for anyone living in this country. Without running water or a working heating or sewage system, many residents living in Attawapiskat are suffering and the government is doing little to address the systemic issues.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Duncan claimed that the community is partly to blame for its misfortune; that it has not been able to handle its finances appropriately. What Duncan fails to illustrate is that the Attawapiskat community is in debt because of a sewage back-up a few years ago that left hundreds homeless, a situation which the federal government failed to adequately assist in rectifying.

To put this on the backs of the Aboriginals and their apparent lack of “financial management” disregards decades worth of First Nations policy that have put this community in the state it is today. A failure of the Aboriginal Affairs department to appropriately monitor the state of this community and offer substantial monetary assistance is the primary reason why so many are living in tents without proper sanitary conditions.

Sending ministry officials to the community or throwing more money at the situation without adequately addressing the underlying issues will not make the Attawapiskat community better.

With an electorate that is seemingly more open to exploring these issues of inequality, especially given the recent Occupy protests, it seems that there is perhaps no greater issue today which requires our immediate attention than the plight of these First Nations peoples living in such a dire state of poverty.

—The Cord Editorial Board

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