Attawapiskat is a First Nations Reserve on the western shore of James Bay. Its population is close to 2,000. There are quite a few large families and the population is growing fast. Since there was not enough houses for the people and there was no money to buy more, the Chief declared a state of emergency last fall because about 20 families were living in tents or in poor shacks that were not fit for people to live in, especially the elderly.
The media took over the news, and came to Attawapiskat to observe, take photos, talk to the people, and verify the situation.
Members of both the federal and provincial legislatures also came to the village: the minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, federal member of Parliament Charlie Angus of James Bay, and Ontario provincial member of Parliament Gilles Bisson of Timmins-James Bay. Soon after, the government decided to buy 22 houses that were needed to shelter the families who were living in tents or shacks.
As of February 16, 2012, nine modular houses have reached the village of Attawapiskat. They have since been parked together until an appropriate time comes to put them where there are empty spaces in the village. Everyday, two modular houses are brought on the winter road from Moosonee to Attawapiskat. It takes eight hours to reach the village.
It boosts the morale of the people of Attawapiskat to see two new houses reaching the village every evening even if these units are not furnished except for a kitchen range and a fridge. Any gift sent to Attawapiskat will help to buy tables, chairs, beds, and blankets. Many thanks to those who have already contributed!
Father Rodrigue Vézina, O.M.I., is pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Attawapiskat, and Blessed Kateri mission in Peawanuck, Northern Ontario, in the Diocese of Moosonee.