APTN National News
OTTAWA-A month after the northern Ontario First Nation community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency triggering the intervention of the Canadian Red Cross, the Conservative government has announced it would be hiring a financial consultant to manage the reserve.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced the move during question period Wednesday that exploded over the ongoing housing crisis in Attawapiskat. The Conservative caucus clapped in approval when Duncan said the community would be placed under third-party management.
“On the ground assessment has determined that health and safety issues demand immediate action,” said Duncan. “We are placing the First Nation in third party management. We are also requesting a comprehensive audit.”
With several families living in tents and shacks with no running water as deep winter-like temperatures hit this community on the James Bay Coast, Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency to get immediate help for its residents.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence had been pleading for help from Ottawa and Ontario.
Spence now has no authority over the band’s management.
Since then, The Canadian Red Cross has flown in supplies and Canadians across the country have mostly reacted with shock and compassion.
Fresh off a trip from the community, NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel led off question period with a call for the prime minister to visit the community and see for himself the dire situation facing the residents there.
“You should sleep in a shack with a sleeping bag,” said Turmel, during question period. “You will see that the sleeping bags provided by the Red Cross are not the solution. Where is the action? Where is the leadership?”
Harper brushed off Turmel’s call and said his government would be acting to fix the “management problem” in the community of Attawapiskat.
“This government has invested more than $90 million into this community since coming into office,” said Harper. “We will be announcing additional steps to deal with management problems in this community.”
Duncan made the third party management announcement shortly after this exchange in response to a question from NDP MP Charlie Angus, who has championed Attawapiskat’s cause.
“Their solution is to blame the community,” said Angus. “Why is it when a First Nation community is in distress does this government’s response is in contempt.”
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae also attacked the government for blaming Attawapiskat for its dire condition.
“The government that should be placed under this party management is the government across the aisle,” said Rae. “This government is all hat, no cattle.”
Harper said his government wanted to find out what happened to the money sent to Attawapiskat.
“Unlike the party opposite when it was in government, this government is prepared and determined to ensure results with those funds,” said Harper. “That is why the people of Canada placed the Liberal party under third-party management.”