Crisis on the [James Bay] coast – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – November 1, 2011)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

State of emergency declared

With a housing shortage forcing residents to live in tents and cold November winds beginning to blow off James Bay, communities on the coast have collectively declared a state of emergency.

“There is definitely something terribly wrong” when billions of dollars in revenue is being generated from mining while “the citizens of this rich land continue to face daily hardships with decent housing, education, health care and a high rate of suicide,” said Mushkegowuk Deputy Grand Chief Leo Friday.

“This is not right and something has to be done.” There are families, he added, living in “tent-frame structures, wooden storage sheds, hazardous and condemned homes.” Friday said he is aware of five families in Attawapiskat that have been living in a tent for more than a year now while three families in Kashechewan and another two in Fort Albany have been living in sheds.

“We received a letter from a concerned grandmother in Attawapiskat, worried about her grandchildren going through another winter living in a tent. She added that the First Nation did what it could to help them but there is no funding for new houses in the community.”

The problem stems from the disproportionate number of homes to the local populations as well as the poor and deteriorating condition of many of these dwellings.

Attawapiskat has a population of 3,281 but only has 304 homes.

Kashechewan has 1,900 people with only 268 houses while Fort Albany has approximately 1,000 people and only 150 residences.

“While the average person per household in Canada is around 2.3, it ranges from 6.5 to eight people per household in our communities,” said Friday.

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