Friday, November 25, 2011

"We Have to Address That the Basic Rights of These Community Members are Being Denied" by Alex Snider

"The greatest resource that we have in the North is not the oil sands, it's not the diamond mines, it's not the copper mines, it's the children who come from these reserves." Holy smokes. This. 

The Northern Cree Reservation of Attawapiskat waaaaay up on James Bay has declared a state of emergency due to a housing crisis that sees 90 people, 47 families living in a trailer (without any sprinklers, fire alarms and unit doors that are padlocked from the outside every night due to vandals), 5 families in tents, 19 families in shanty shacks, 122 families in condemned homes, 35 families in houses in need of serious repair and 118 families living with other people because of a lack of housing. 

There is no running water on the reserve thanks to the DeBeers diamond mine next door, the richest in the world, that has poisoned the water supply. Buckets serve as toilets which are subsequently dumped in the ditch right a few meters away. Electricity is scarce, many shacks using only an extension cord run from outside generators. Shacks and shanties are mostly uninsulated and visibly riddled with black mold, heated with home-made wood stoves cramping the tiny structures. 

Also, thanks to a diesel spill 20 years ago, the school was shut down 12 years ago. The children of Attawapiskat, which is a fly-in community, have relied on portables for eight years. The government claims there will be no money for new schools for the next 5 years.

The Federal and Provincial governments have been completely silent (save for some individual MPs and MPPs – Charlie Angus FTW). While this is not a unique situation (although extreme), it is indicative of the Canadian government's historic maltreatment of Aboriginal people. Whether it be policies of annihilation (Conservatives) or policies of assimilation (Liberals), whichever party is in power makes sure to best ignore the rights of Indigenous people to suit their own needs. I cannot figure how ignoring Attawapiskat's pleas for help figure into the Conservative and Liberal current mandates (it's been a while since the goverments were quite so transparent in their anti-Aboriginal agendas) but if it's displaying to Canadians how little they care about Aboriginal people then I guess it's working? Congrats, I guess? 

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