02/12/2012 09:21 EST | Updated 04/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Attawapiskat Receives First Modular Home


The first of 22 modular homes promised by the federal government to Attawapiskat has arrived to the remote northern Ontario First Nations community, the Aboriginal Affairs minister's office confirmed Sunday.

The home, much needed in the community which is facing a housing crisis amid winter temperatures, arrived at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan's office told CBC News. It is waiting to be inspected before being handed over to the Attawapiskat band and council.

The second modular home is en route, but heavy traffic on the ice road on Saturday has delayed its journey, the minister's office added.

Site preparation stalled: Angus

The modular home arrives in Attawapiskat amid questions over the readiness of the designated lots to receive them.

The MP who first sounded the alarm on Attawapiskat's housing troubles said on Saturday the community is not ready to install them because site preparations have been stalled by the government-imposed third-party manager.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat, said in a telephone interview with CBC News that the money needed to get the construction work underway is being "choked off" by the third-party manager.

According to Angus, a technical team and service crews have been on the ground for over three weeks but the government has "handcuffed' the council by "refusing to put up any of the funds."

Ottawa offers 'additional capacity'

Duncan refuted this on Saturday, and expressed concern over the readiness of the lots.

He said he has communicated directly with the chief and council in Attawapiskat and offered them "additional capacity" to expedite the work and ensure maximum use of the winter road.

"Our government has allocated the necessary funds for this work and the third party manager has advised that he will ensure all related invoices are paid from these funds," Duncan said.

He urged for "all efforts to prepare the remaining 20 sites occur as quickly as possible."

The minister's office said Sunday it was working to confirm the state of readiness of the lots for the modular homes.

The 22 modular homes were shipped to Moosonee, Ont., in December, where they have been waiting for the ice road to be ready for heavier traffic. They are meant to be a more permanent housing solution for the two dozen families living in tent frames and shacks.

A healing lodge in the community was converted as a temporary housing measure and the Canadian Red Cross assisted with emergency aid.

The federal government purchased the homes after the Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency last fall.