The Cree Attawapiskat First Nation faces a housing crisis, and its leaders have asked for evacuation as nearly 2,000 community members face dire conditions as winter descends.

Attawapiskat Gimme Shelter Plea Falls on Deaf Government Ears


They live in tents, dilapidated huts and a trailer or two, several generations under one tiny roof. They cook on wood stoves, and occasionally a child will get scalded because of the overcrowded conditions combined with precariously perched pots of boiling water. A lack of clean, running water causes rashes. There is no electricity.

United Nations refugee camp outside a so-called Third World war zone? Nope. It’s Canada. Northern Ontario, to be exact, on the shores of James Bay.

Attawapiskat First Nation’s leaders are begging the Canadian government to relocate them as winter temperatures encroach on their unlivable reserve’s fragile infrastructure and overcrowded housing. But a month after chief Theresa Spence first declared an emergency on October 28, the federal government has yet to offer assistance or a solution.

On November 18 she and other leaders requested that the community be evacuated, The Toronto Star reported.

About 1,800 people live in the small James Bay community in 303 houses, according to CBC News. Many of the community members overflow from the houses into tents or shacks built nearby, but given that at least half the homes have mold as well as sewage and roof leakage, they are not much better than the improvised structures.

“I often have to remind myself that I am still working in the province of Ontario,” said Elizabeth Blackmore, a doctor who serves families along the James Bay coast, along with 11 other physicians, according to the Toronto Star.

The Star reported that up to 27 people live in one of the homes, and about 90 have taken up residence in a construction trailer that De Beers Canada Inc. left behind.

“At the moment it really is a crisis we are facing…. We are in a Third World situation,” said Spence to reporters at a press conference on Friday November 18, according to Member of Parliament (MP) for Timmins–James Bay Charlie Angus, writing for the Huffington Post. “I think we must [evacuate] because they are not in safe environment right now and winter is coming.”

Spence has requested $400,000 to renovate 15 homes, CBC News reported, but there has been no answer. She estimates that 200 houses are actually needed. An Ontario government spokesperson told Postmedia News that the provincial and federal governments are coordinating a reponse, but did not give a timeline.

Here is a video that Angus put together about the conditions.

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anarchistmelanie1981's picture
Submitted by anarchistmelanie1981 on
That's really sad is there anything we can do to help?

ihavequestions's picture
Submitted by ihavequestions on
I am a native living south of many remote first nations communities,This is what concerns me... -where is the money being spent that has been alocated to the reserves has been sent to many reserves to improve drinkingwater..where did it go? -What type of home does the chief and band councilers live in? I know for sure homes have been built in many reserves as i worked at assembling houses for first nation communities..this is sad but i have a story that goes untold..we had 12 units that we were renovating in a reserve what we did was moved a family into a freshly renovated house while there home was being redone..after the homes was finsihed we would move the family back into there house that was completed..what i seen made me ashamed to be week after they moved in i came back for a paint touchup and..all cupboard doors were removed and burned in the woodstove..doors removed and burned.door trim baseboards all burned...why why why??? This is just one story i have..why do these stories never get reported..who is to blame,,,why do native kids drop out of school at the 4th grade?? Why do the chiefs and there family all drive new vehicles, have new snowmachines every year,,why..why are native people suffering??why why why I am sad to say but where has all the millions of dollars that is given to the reserves gone...who is responsible for this money. i would like answers from the band council and chief..what are they doing for there people while they are warm in there houses.they are the leaders

beaver's picture
Submitted by beaver on
I very strongly resent the comments by "ihavequestions" above. His/her response is framed in terms of concern for the Indians. But everything this person has written is intent on conveying that the Canadian government has given "millions of dollars" to this nation and all that money has ended up in the pocket of the Chief. So effectively this White person is saying that Indians are responsible for their own condition. Not cool, as my grandson would say.