Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO) supports the growing plea for a sustainable housing plan in
Attawapiskat and other remote First Nations.
For more than 20 years, MCCO has had the honour of being woven into relationship with Attawapiskat First Nation through the openness and innovation of the men, women, children and elders in this culturally-rooted community.
“Our shared work on food security and economic justice has been truly profound and we are committed to walking with remote First Nation communities to ensure sustainable housing solutions,” says Lyndsay Mollins Koene, Aboriginal Neighbours Coordinator in MCCO’s Timmins Office.
To address some of the immediate needs, MCCO is responding to a request by the community for 1,000 winter blankets, 500 hygiene kits and 25 relief kits for those most vulnerable.
Grand Chief Stan Louttit of Mushkegowuk Council, when asked by MCCO about the housing crisis, shares, "It is the human rights of our people that are being violated; the government has a legal obligation." Louttit then quoted Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of self and family, including food, clothing and housing.”
Attawapiskat First Nation, a community of 2000 members, is located approximately 500 kilometres north of Timmins, Ontario. Right now,there are 122 families living in condemned housing that was built in the 1970’s and has not been maintained.
Even more startling are the 19 families living in make-shift tents, and shacks that are without electricity, running water, or plumbing. No fewer than 250 new homes are needed to alleviate over-crowding and sub-standard housing in this Mushkegowuk Cree community.
MCCO empathizes with the challenges voiced by Attawapiskat. Monique Sutherland,Attawapiskat’s Housing Manager, explains, “We can’t just pick up hammers, nails and supplies and repair our homes. Supplies cost money, and so does the transportation of these supplies. The solutions aren’t that simple.”
In addition to its short-term response of emergency aid, MCCO will continue to work with partner organizations, Mushkegowuk Council, and Attawapiskat First Nation in order to listen, understand and support the necessary, long-term sustainable planning that must be put in place.
--Dec. 1, 2011