After a long cold winter, Attawapiskat residents got a rude spring awakening -- an overwhelmed drainage system is swamping the Ontario reserve in sewage.
The situation has gotten so dire, CBC News reports, patients from the local hospital are being evacuated.
"This is a big deal to be moved out of their community," De-Anne Sheppard, the hospital's director of patient care told CBC. "Several of them speak only Cree. So we are having to send some health care aides along with them who are able to translate for them."
Now, Charlie Angus, the MP for Timmins–James Bay, is hoping Ottawa gets another kind of rude awakening.
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In a letter to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq on Monday, Angus told her a "clear action plan is needed."
"The questions of the evacuation of sick and elderly people must be considered," he wrote. "The question of the health of people left in the homes flooded by sewage must also be addressed."
Angus cited one case in which a little girl wrote, telling him she couldn't "flush the toilet or run the water for fear of backing up more sewage into their already contaminated home."
At least 20 homes, according to Angus, have been damaged along with flooding at teachers' residences and the hospital.
A Facebook page chronicles the ravages of the backed up system, including stark images taken from the scene.
On Monday evening, Andrea Richer, press secretary to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, told the Huffington Post the department has reached out to the beleaguered community -- and given funding directly to six Ontario First Nations, including Attawapiskat, to prepare for flooding.
Those funds, she said, are meant to support flood watch and emergency preparedness activities, including hiring and training of safety officers in each vulnerable community, as well as the purchase of extra fuel for river surveillance activities and safety equipment.
According to Richer, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence indicated she was not available to discuss the situation until the end of the week.
Instead, Aboriginal Affairs has "reached out to the deputy chief and are prepared to offer whatever assistance is required to ensure the health and safety of the community."