The Attawapiskat First Nation has called a state of emergency, and neither the Federal or Ontario Provincial goverment has come to help. In a world where we are very concerned with the living conditions in Third World countries, we have our own native population living in substandard conditions. Families are living in tents, sheds, and rotting houses without electricity, running water or heat. One school was forced to close twelve years ago because children were being exposed to dangerous levels of benzene from the badly contaminated ground. The school has not been replaced. This fight for equal education has gone all the way to the United Nations, led by a 13-year-old child.
We demand that the Federal and Provincial government cease all marginalization of the Attawapiskat First Nation.
The Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency three weeks ago, yet no one came to help. These Native people are living in rotting homes, tents and sheds without electricity or running water. They will be exposed to extreme cold temperatures within the next few weeks. Due to the lack of sanitation facilities and running water, people are beginning to get sick, which could lead to death. Dr. John Waddell of the Weeneebayko Health Authority emphatically has stated that "conditions had deteriorated to the point that an emergency situation was unfolding. Families are facing 'immediate risk' of infection, disease and possible fire from their increasingly precarious conditions." Dr. Elizabeth Blackmore reiterated this message at Queen's Park on Friday, November 18th.
Still, aside from the $500,000 promised by Minister John Duncan (a drop in the bucket), no action seems to have taken place.
A local school has been forced to shut down due to dangerous levels of benzene from the badly contaminated ground as a result of a broken oil distribution line which fed the school. The solution was to build a temporary shacks right next to the site of contamination until a school could be built. This was 12 years ago. When the school finally was demolished in spring of 2009, the government left an "open toxic wound" resulting in a severe health crisis with cases of headaches, nausea, skin rashes, nosebleeds, chronic diarrhea, and children just "passing out".
It seems that the Canadian government has no problem spending money when it comes to the three-day G8 summit in Toronto, including providing a fake lake, but it cannot take care of its own citizens.
It is time for this government, both Federal and Provincial, to begin acting in the interests of its citizens, starting with the marginalized populations of Canada.
The community in question needs a school and needs to be rebuilt. All Canadians, including Canada's First People, deserve clean and equitable schools, and to be treated with a fundamental level of respect and dignity.
Shame on each and every one of you who has disregarded or been willfully blind to the needs of this community.
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