The desperate conditions at Attawapiskat have created a dangerous situation that poses great risk to the health and safety of the First Nation people. A lack of safe and permanent housing, limited access to safe drinking water and electricity, and a broken sewage system which has pushed 90 community members into trailers on a permanent basis, is deplorable. I am shocked by the pictures coming in from the community and sadden that this situation is being echoed in other communities.
The Liberals are concerned about the lack of response by the Conservative government. We can rapidly respond to natural disasters around the world within days but it took over a month of this community declaring they were in an emergency situation before anything happened in Attawapiskat.
It is shocking and upsetting that it had to go so far that the Canadian Red Cross had to intervene with blankets and heaters.
More disappointing is that the emergency situation in Attawapiskat represents Third World conditions that far too often characterize life on First Nations reserves in Canada. We cannot limit this tragedy to a one-off. We need to examine how we relate to our aboriginal communities and how we can do better. We have a moral and constitutional responsibility to work with, not for our aboriginal communities.
The federal government’s refusal to make meaningful attempts to address the water and housing crises, like the one in Attawapiskat, is a denial of the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Canadians receive the same provisions of basic services. By simply taking over in a time of crisis rather than working with the community is not the solution.
It also contradicts their support of the recent Liberal Opposition Day Motion on Clean Running Water for First Nations, which calls on “the Government of Canada to address on an urgent basis the needs of those First Nations communities whose members have no access to clean, running water in their homes; that action to address this disparity forthwith; and that the House further recognize that the absence of this basic requirement represents a continuing affront to our sense of justice and fairness as Canadians.”
For all Canadians sake, I hope the government will take swift and definitive action on how they relate to our aboriginal communities because we should not have a situation such as this in our country.