Something unusual happened about three weeks ago.
Chief Theresa Spence took steps to declare a State of Emergency in the Attawapiskat reserve, a small community in Northern Ontario.
Did you see it in the news? Probably not, I certainly didn’t. No one really seemed to care until Charlie Angus, the NDP MP for the region wrote about it at the Huffington Post.
Attawapiskat is the home to the James Bay Cree, a home that is in crisis.
Currently there are families in this community living in tents and sheds without such basic necessities as running water, having to use plastic buckets for toilets and dumping them in a ditch behind their “homes”.
This is not a recent development but a problem that has been growing for years. These people live at a junction between three governments, the Ontario, federal and native governments and no one has stepped forward to address these issues.
The indifference to the plight of these people is a crime.
Imagine if you can, in a country such as Canada, the Red Cross having to step in to help because the governments have not. This is not a natural disaster where you expect the Red Cross to help but a disaster of indifference. A preventable disaster.
The saddest part in this is that Attawapiskat is not alone, there are other native communities in the North across Canada facing similar problems. Lack of housing, inadequate housing, people living without things that most in Canada take for granted such as clean drinking water at the turn of a tap. The children of Attawapiskat don’t even have a school any more. Theirs was closed 12 years ago because of toxic fumes from contaminated soil the school sat upon.
These same children embarked on a plan to try and shame the government into providing a school. Their message has made it all the way to the United Nations.
Because these people live on reserve, they are limited as to what they can do. Even if they can afford to build a house, they cannot have a mortgage because they live on a reserve. What these people really need is an end to the political indifference at all levels of government.
With winter rapidly approaching, these people are going to be living in crowded conditions in places that are heated with woodstoves and the like. The dangers of contagious disease or tragedies involving hot woodstoves and children or house fires are very real. These people need our help.
If you want to help during this time of need, you can reach the Canadian Red Cross here for ways to donate.
If you wish to contact Charlie Angus the Member of Parliament for this region to voice your support in his efforts to have this addressed, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Let us tell the people of Attawapiskat that people care and that people want better for the peoples of the North.
Maybe we can make something unusual happen too.