Attawapiskat In Court To Fight 3rd-Party Manager

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ATTAWAPISKAT
The Attawapiskat reserve in Northern Ontario has been fighting to get help from Ottawa. | CP


Attawapiskat First Nation will be back in court on Tuesday to battle with the federal government over its decision to appoint a third-party manager to take control of the band council's finances.

As it waits for a full judicial review, Attawapiskat is trying to get a court injunction to remove the outside manager, who was appointed by the federal government last year as the community grappled with a housing crisis.

Stan Louttit, the grand chief for a region of northern Ontario that includes Attawapiskat, says that when he declared a state of emergency at the end of October, he expected help, not a takeover.

"Never did we think that one party would come to us and say, 'You cannot deal with this yourself. We are the government here and step aside, we're coming in,'" Louttit says.

"To me, that's morally and legally wrong."

The First Nation argues the government is trying to divert attention from itself by alleging misconduct and mismanagement by the council. Attawapiskat says chronic underfunding led to the housing crisis on the remote reserve, and the band contends that third-party management will cause delays in getting new housing into the community.

The government pledged funds to help retrofit existing buildings and has promised 22 modular homes, which will be trucked in when ice roads are ready, but it's not clear how long it will take to ready them for families once they've arrived.

In an affidavit, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence describes how the current situation makes her feel the same as when she was sent to a residential school.

The government says it would be inappropriate to comment while the issue is before the courts — but in court documents, the government argues the band council lacked the means or capacity to deal with the housing crisis.

The government says the health and safety of the people is at risk and that third-party management is the most appropriate response.

A decision on Tuesday's hearing is expected within a week, but could come as soon as the end of the day.

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