Duncan wont visit Attawapiskat but says temporary shelters opening in healing centre

first_imgAPTN National NewsOTTAWA-Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Attawapiskat residents living in squalid housing conditions will be able to move into temporary accommodations in the community’s sportsplex and healing centre.Duncan, however, said he had no immediate plans to take up Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s request to visit the community.Duncan said Emergency Management Ontario was already in the community to prepare temporary shelter inside the community’s existing facilities.Duncan said people would be able to live in the sportsplex and healing centre until the department figures out a way to find a permanent solution to the housing crisis, which has forced families to live in tents, shacks with no running water and a trailer packed with 90 people.The housing crisis has turned into a national spectacle with the Canadian Red Cross flying in sleeping bags and images of children living in houses being slowly choked by mould.“We looked at the facilities, they are ready and we can make other facilities available very, very quickly,” said Duncan, in an interview with APTN National News. “Our most critical thing is to make sure we deal with the urgent need. That is what we are doing. We will look at the medium and long-term separately, that is our priority.”Duncan announced Wednesday the community would be put under third-party management, meaning an outside consultant would come in to run administer the band’s finances.Duncan told APTN National News there were problems with how the band was managing its funds, which total about $90 million since 2006 to run all its services and build houses. Duncan said the department had been very patient with the community.“Twelve years of co-management, the indication is things were not being delivered quite efficiently and there was a high degree of patience expressed,” said Duncan.A former deputy minister for Aboriginal Affairs who read the audit on the community said there were problems with how the band handled the money, but found it “surprising” the department didn’t know about it despite Attawapiskat being in co-management for so long.“There is a co-manager in there. The department should have had access to any information they needed if they were really tracking what was going on,” said Scott Serson, deputy minister for the department from 1995 to 1999. “None of this should come as a surprise.”Serson said the bigger issue hanging over the Attawapiskat situation is the two per cent cap imposed by the Jean Chretien Liberal government in 1996 on funding for core band services.The cap, which meant funding for services like education, child and family services and welfare, could only receive up to two per cent extra funding every year.With First Nations facing rapid population growth, they couldn’t keep up with their needs and often took money from housing and other infrastructure to top up their service delivery.“We are going to see more communities like that because the transfers aren’t adequate when they don’t have other sources of income,” said Serson.For his part, Duncan said he didn’t know about the housing situation in the community until recently, despite repeated trips by Aboriginal Affairs officials to Attawapiskat over the last several months, including three trips in October.“I was unaware. My officials may or may not have been aware,” said Duncan.Duncan also dismissed calls made by some newspaper columnists and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former advisor that it may be time to shut down some of these remote reserves that consistently find themselves in crisis.“We don’t do forcible relocations. It is a relic of the 1950s and we don’t do that,” said Duncan.The minister, however, said he wouldn’t be visiting the community any time soon. Spence told APTN National News she wanted Duncan to visit.“I have had officials in the community and that is what is required,” said Duncan. “I have been to many, many communities in remote areas since 1994.”last_img read more

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