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Attawapiskat Crisis: A Grim Warning From B.C. First Nation

A B.C. Chief is warning First Nations that have declared a state of emergency because of living conditions in northern Ontario reserves not to accept temporary fixes from the federal government.

On Wednesday, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced Attawapiskat, one of the distressed villages off of James Bay, would be placed under third-party control. That means funding to address urgent health and safety issues will be administered directly by the federal government.

Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-kwa-mish First Nation said his community was in a similar situation seven years ago. They were promised federal help when the community's water was undrinkable and its houses condemned.

He said those promises have not been fulfilled.

"We accepted interim housing. We accepted an interim water plant: and it has now become the permanent solution."

The Department of Indian Affairs promised to replace 26 mouldy homes in the village of Gwa-yas-dums on Gilford Island. The tiny community off the north coast of Vancovuer Island was also told its undrinkable water would be replaced with a modern reverse-osmosis system, but that's not what happened, said Chamberlin.

He said Gilford's 26 condemned homes have been replaced by six homes and eight trailers. Its new high-efficiency propane grid is stalled and its water system isn't working well.

Chamberlin's advice for the James Bay village of Attawapiskat is "do not accept a single interim measure."

"Go right to the final solution, because if they accept interim measures, they're going to walk away from you once the media attention is gone, and Gilford is a perfect example," he said.

Meanwhile, he says his people continue to wait and hope for a permanent solution.

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