Lack of money isn’t Attawapiskat’s problem – by Lorne Gunter (Calgary Sun – April 19, 2016)

The mining company has also done over $350 million in business
with companies at Attawapiskat since 2006 to supply DeBeers with
helicopters, camp catering, fuel, dynamite and other supplies.
Many of those businesses are owned by the band.

Let’s be clear, what’s going on in the Northern Ontario First Nation of Attawapiskat is awful – the attempted suicides, the suicide pacts, the decrepit housing and foul water, the chronic unemployment, substance abuse and general despair.

But let’s be equally clear: a legion of government social workers flown in from down south, visits by consoling cabinet ministers, emergency Parliamentary debates and a few barge loads more of taxpayer dollars aren’t going to make an ounce of difference. Because the problem is neither lack of government nor lack of other people’s money.

When we see images of the squalid homes in Attawapiskat (or scores of other northern reserves) and hear about how residents use buckets as toilets because their towns lack water and sewers, we wonder how such Third World conditions can occur in a First World country such as Canada.

It’s only natural, then, to conclude First Nations are being starved for funds by Ottawa or the provinces.

Then you hear someone such as Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day say “What if even just 25% of the profits from the diamond mine [90km from Attawapiskat] went to the First Nation, do you think they’d have a new school? They might have two or three. Do you think they’d maybe have a swimming pool for the kids? I think so.”

And that sounds pretty reasonable to you.

But consider this: Diamond company DeBeers already pays the Attawapiskat council nearly $3 million a year for a town of under 2,000 people.

Five years ago, DeBeers gave the community 22 housing units after former Chief Theresa Spence declared a housing emergency. Spence (whose Idle No More hunger strike made her famous) was only too happy to tour southern reporters around the walled tents and uninsulated shacks some residents were living in during the winter. But what most newscasts missed were the empty DeBeers units that Spence and council couldn’t figure out how to distribute.

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