Ottawa — The federal government has offered to relocate the grim aboriginal community of Kashechewan to higher ground along James Bay. In Ottawa on Thursday night, Minister of Indian Affairs Andy Scott met with native leaders and offered to relocate the community to higher ground along James Bay — but the project will take 10 years.
Mr. Scott said Ottawa will pay for 50 new houses a year until the reserve's decrepit homes have been razed. "That is still to be worked out," he said when asked what the new measures will cost. Native leaders who flanked the minister as he spoke said 10 years is a reasonable time to wait.
"I am thankful," said Kashechewan chief Leo Friday. Band councillors will decide who gets to move into the new homes first based on need, he added. "We had to go with a figure that we felt was reasonable in negotiations with the government," said Stan Louittit, grand chief for the Crees of Ontario. "We are satisfied that the community will benefit from this new agreement."
The neglected humanitarian disaster on the Cree reserve in northern Ontario has been a political nightmare for the federal Liberals. Prime Minister Paul Martin, under intense opposition fire, vowed earlier Thursday to clean up a contaminated water crisis on the reserve. "We are very concerned about this totally unacceptable situation," Mr. Martin said above catcalls in the House of Commons.It was another day of searing question-period attacks over the government's failure to help Kashechewan before its plight made national headlines.
It’s all well and good that the federal government finally decided to acknowledge it had a responsibility to act and if the people of Kashechewan are happy with this solution it should all be good. But I am still uneasy with the whole sordid mess. Relocating the community over 10 year period just doesn’t cut it with me. The disaster at Kashechewan was allowed to happen and was an entirely federal man-made disaster.
There was nothing announced by the Minister Andy Scott that showed me that the Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs has seen the error of its ways. There was absolutely nothing announced that suggested that pattern of negligence and indifference as practiced by the Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs or that the reign of genocide by sewage has ended. There are over 100 native communities today that are under a boil water advisory and no plan was put forward or action was announced to address that.