KAPUSKASING AND SIOUX LOOKOUT – NDP MPPs Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk-James Bay) and Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong), Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, say flooding is already knocking at the door of Kashechewan First Nation, but the province is ignoring the threat, and failing to help with the evacuation.
Doug Ford cut Conservation Authorities’ flood management budgets by 50 per cent — putting more communities at risk of higher flood waters devastating homes and communities. Kashewhewan First Nation has flooded year after year, forcing people to evacuate, but this year the government hasn’t stepped up to help at all.
“As Ontario faces the spread of COVID-19, Kashechewan First Nation faces two crises: the global COVID-19 pandemic and spring flooding. A large group of the population opted to pre-emptively move to the traditional camps, but there are hundreds of others – including elders, children and the immuno-compromised – who will have to receive aid from Ontario and the federal government,” said Mamakwa.
“We all knew the time would come, but the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and the Solicitor General’s Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) have both dragged their feet for far too long.”
As provincial and federal governments share responsibilities in managing First Nation evacuations, both the PEOC, an agency under Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ purview, and Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, play a critical role in the planning of emergency programs and coordinating with municipalities and First Nations.
“Northern municipalities, like Cochrane, Hearst, Kapuskasing, Sudbury, Thunder Bay or Timmins, have welcomed evacuees for years. But this year, PEOC and the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs sat on their hands for over a month and did nothing. Then, they turned to the municipalities at the eleventh hour, in some cases without even informing local authorities,“ said Bourgouin.
“This is completely unacceptable. Neither the people of Kashechewan nor the municipalities in Northern Ontario deserve to be treated with inattention and rashness. It is just unfair and inhumane,” Bourgouin concluded.