Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND) John Duncan on December 7 offered the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat evacuation, as Chief Theresa Spence had originally requested back in October, to deaf ears.
However, the offer comes with a stipulation that Spence and the band council allow the third-party administrator who they kicked out last week to return.
Moreover, Attawapiskat itself must pay for said auditor, to the tune of $1,300 per day through the end of June, the Canadian Press reported.
AAND told the news agency that Jacques Marion, of the accounting firm BDO Canada LLP, will earn $180,000 through the end of June for overseeing the finances of the community, whose members are living in shacks, tents and an abandoned DeBeers trailer, without running water or heat.
“The money comes from the Attawapiskat First Nation’s budget,” the Canadian Press said.
That $1,300 matches the monthly cost of an educational assistant, New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament (MP) Charlie Angus, who first sounded the alarm about Attawapiskat’s predicament, told the Canadian Press. His party has called for military assistance to the troubled reserve.
Although First Nations officials told the Canadian Press that the price is in line with third-party oversight in general, chiefs from around the country had stood behind Spence on December 6 when she asked the third-party administrator to leave. They passed a resolution at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa supporting Spence’s move and gave her a standing ovation.
AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo also asked the United Nations to observe Canada’s handling of the situation. AAND meanwhile advised Attawapiskat to accept the third-party auditor for its own sake.
“I am reiterating my concern about the health and safety needs in your community. I continue to encourage you to work with my officials … in addressing these short-term emergency needs. Our goal is to ensure all residents have access to safe, warm shelter,” Duncan wrote in a two-page letter to Spence, released by CBC News.
Duncan gave Spence two options: Either work with the third-party manager, the Red Cross and Emergency Management Ontario to retrodfit the healing lodge and/or the sportsplex for temporary qurters until modular homes arrive, or temporarily evacuate people who are residing in tents or shacks until the modular homes that are on order arrive.
“I again cannot stress enough the need to work with the third-party manager, our government and our partners to ensure teh health and safety of the community,” Duncan said. “I believe the two options above are fair and reasonable offers.”