This week will mark the first anniversary since Attawawpiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency over the abysmal housing situation on the James Bay coast. Footage of the living conditions in this isolated community shocked Canadians and resulted in a media firestorm. The crisis became a cultural Pandora's box that unleashed numerous issues and misconceptions regarding our relationship with Canada's First Peoples. Now on the eve of this dark anniversary, Canada's "Katrina" moment has made it to the big screen. And who better equipped to tell the real story of the 2011-housing crisis than iconic filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin?
We are disturbed that in the days following a Federal Court decision you refused to provide a ministerial guarantee to support a plan to build 30 new duplexes in Attawapiskat through rents established at market rates. Thirty new units would have gone a long way towards alleviating the serious levels of overcrowding in the community. As the band had already been approved by CMHC, your role was simply to sign a ministerial guarantee. This was not a hand-out but a forward-looking plan that to provide safe housing for families who are living in very precarious conditions.
On August 1, the Federal Court released its judicial review of the appointment of a Third Party Manager in Attawapiskat. Over and over again, the Federal Court states that financial mismanagement was not the issue, and never had been. The fact that the public dialogue about Attawapiskat was almost wholly concerned with allegations of such mismanagement, demonstrates just how intensely events can become hijacked by misunderstandings.
Federal court ruled Wednesday morning the that the Conservative government's response to the crisis in Attawapiskat was unreasonable and failed to look at any remedy other than the appointment of a Third Party Manager. Rather that own up to their mistake the Conservative government says it is "disappointed" with the decision. What will it take for this government to take responsibility for its own incompetence? The Conservative government must work with First Nations to find solutions rather than simply trying to deflect blame for their own failures.
For everything that the Conservatives have done to this country -- from lying about the costs of the F-35 program, to Bev Oda inserting the "not" that defunded KAIROS -- it's quite hypocritical of Harper's government to ask the First Nations for fiscal transparency on National Aboriginal Day.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food recently toured Canada and reported, "very desperate conditions, and people who are in extremely dire straits" in terms of hunger. The Conservative response was to deny the problem and to attack the credibility of the Rapporteur. The government is turning its back on almost three million Canadians who are struggling to meet their nutrition needs.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is busy patting itself on the back for solving all of Attawapiskat's problems. To hear them tell it, Jacques Marion, who was just let go as the First Nation's third-party manager, was a veritable hero, swooping into Attawapiskat in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.
With respect to those who suggest we henceforth do without the British Monarchy, there wouldn't be a Canada without the British Monarchy. This trumps everything as regards this debate. We have real problems in Canada at the moment -- and the British Monarchy isn't one of them.
One of the last times I saw her was when she and Serena spoke at the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention in Toronto. She blew the room away. Tough-assed union leaders cried when they heard her speak. There was something so vulnerable but so fierce about Shannen. She had moxy.
Housing is increasingly unaffordable for many. Federal support for housing has plummeted and could decrease further in an era of so-called fiscal restraint. The numbers point to more and more households unable to meet, or at risk of not meeting, basic needs including housing. Something's gotta give.
As you boot up your computer bleary-eyed this morning, groping about for your cup of coffee, I'm going to be that peppy friend across the table who is just so GOSH DARN EXCITED it's the new year! And do you know WHY I'm so excited?! (C'mon ask me, ask me!!)
Because it's the first new year you can start your day with The Huffington Post CANADA. YES! How sweet is that, eh? Canada news, Canada blogs, Canada celebs, Canada style, cute Canadian kitties on YouTube...
Attawapiskat is the portmanteau of Canadian blame, and the longer this continues the more neurotic, blame-happy and internationally noticed Canada becomes for all of this. We are a nation that says sorry with saccharine regularity but we balance this with a love of blame.
We are now two months into the crisis. Temperatures have dropped well below -20 Celsius. If it had not been for the work of the Red Cross, people may have died. And yet, Christmas will come with families still living in tents and sheds. This is completely unacceptable.
No proof is offered to support the assertion that she is hiding anything at all, it is merely seen as obvious. The question people should be asking if they are honestly interested is, "Why is Chief Spence rejecting third-party management?"
If Attawapiskat wants the continued support of the public over an extended period of time, it has to show that they are managing funds effectively. But in the meantime, who is helping the people who need housing now? Fight it out in court and do your audits after you take care of the emergency.