INDEPTH: FORCES OF NATURE|
Donating a village to Louisiana
CBC News Online | Dec. 16, 2005
Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf coast in late August 2005, devastating the city of New Orleans, La. The storm surge breached the levees protecting the "Big Easy" and left huge areas partially submerged in filthy water. The worst-hit area was the city's Lower Ninth Ward – home to some of New Orleans's poorest residents. With their homes and most of their jobs washed away and little prospect of any quick improvement in their situation, thousands of people were facing a bleak future indeed.
That was Frank Stronach's cue. The Austrian-Canadian billionaire chairman of auto-parts giant Magna International offered to put up more than 200 Katrina evacuees in dorm rooms at a racetrack training facility his company owns in Florida. That gesture alone would have been noteworthy; Stronach and Magna, after all, have no links to Louisiana. But there was more.
Stronach then offered to spend $10 million to relocate the Katrina evacuees to another part of Louisiana and build them homes where they could live at no charge.
The new community that arose from that remarkable act has been dubbed Canadaville. Its first residents moved in Dec. 13.
What does the Canadaville development consist of?
The project is on about 320 hectares of land (800 acres) Stronach bought
near Simmesport, La., a Cajun town of 2,200 people about an hour inland from Baton Rouge. The town is half-white, half-black, and about a third of its residents live below the poverty line.
The first phase of the development includes 49 three-bedroom mobile homes, complete with furniture, central air conditioning and porches, front and back. A recreational centre will include areas for basketball and soccer. Stronach is also paying for a new police station and three new police cars.
Canadaville has a capacity of 280 "guests," as the evacuees are called. The first group to move in numbers about 120.
There are plans to build an organic farm to produce chickens, hogs, Angus beef cattle and organic vegetables. Stronach predicts the farm will be profitable within five years.
Canadaville, in short, is meant to be a kind of self-sustaining model community.
What is expected of the residents?
Canadaville's residents will be allowed to stay rent free for up to five years. If they can't find jobs in the area on their own, they will be expected to work on the farm. Each resident is also expected to perform some community service. Eventually, most will likely return to the New Orleans area to try to pick up their lives. Any homes that they leave behind will be turned over to the Red Cross so the charity can use them for others who need housing. But some residents say they have no intention of going back to the "Big Easy," and hope to stay in Canadaville for years.
Who else has helped the Canadaville effort?
While Stronach has footed most of the bills, the effort has been supported by plenty of donations and volunteers. Nineteen Canadian carpenters went to Louisiana in November to donate their time and expertise by building the wood porches on the homes. The evacuees got free flights from Air Canada. The village was designed by the Toronto-based architectural firm Giffels/NORR. Other help was provided by the Canadian Auto Workers union, the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance Canada, employees of various Magna companies and many Louisiana residents.
What was the reaction in Simmesport?
There was some hostility. The majority of town councillors was initially against the proposal. Mobile home parks are often a hard sell at the best of times. And this one would be home to people from an especially poor and crime-ridden part of New Orleans. Would these streetwise transplants adapt to rural life? Would they cause trouble?
Some are skeptical that anyone would want to spend millions in an act of generosity unless he eventually expected something big in return. Others don't like that the Canadian flag is flying alongside the U.S. flag.
But local politicians and many of Simmesport's residents were won over as the new village created work and Stronach suggested that he may build a small manufacturing facility nearby for his company.
New Orleans newspaper columnist John Maginnis said the folks around Simmesport are "so bowled over" by the Canadaville project that many have put aside their initial objections.
"Oh, Canadaville, would that your spirit find its way into the hearts of more Louisiana communities," he wrote.
Hypothermia results when body temperature falls below 35 C. Symptoms include drowsiness, impaired co-ordination and weakness. It can also be fatal.
Frostbite is the result of skin freezing. It causes swelling, redness, tingling and burning. Skin turns white and waxy as the frostbite progresses. Infection and loss of extremities can result.
Frostnip is a condition where ice crystals form under the skin.
Chilblains occur when bare skin is exposed to cold water, or when wet skin cools. The skin itches and swells. Chilblains can lead to gangrene.