Over 1,800 kilograms of meat will soon be on its way to an impoverished Ontario reserve, after Winnipeg’s Muslim community donated a massive amount of food and boxes of supplies to Attawapiskat First Nation as part of their annual Eid-al-Adha celebration.

“Each year, I try to raise the bar a little bit,” said Hussain Guisti of the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation.

Guisti gathers food and goods from the local Muslim community and sends them off to those in need.

Last year, hundreds of kilograms of meat was sent to Shamattawa and Garden Hill.

“We have lots of food, right, and some of the people, they need the food,” said Asha Khaleq, who is storing the meat in her freezer before it is shipped to Attawapiskat. “We don’t want to keep all this for us, right? We want to send it for them.”

The First Nation’s chief, Deborah Spence, told Guisti the community has 350 to 400 families on social assistance. In 2011, a state of emergency was declared on the First Nation.

“She says things are so expensive up there that by the middle of the month their social assistance cheques end and then most families will have to rely on eating bread for the rest of the month,” said Guisti. “In Canada, something like that should not exist.


A young boy stands in the hallway of a house condemned due to structural and mould problems. He shares the home with three other people in Attawapiskat. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

According to 2006 census data, the average annual income in Attawapiskat is just over $12,000.

Dennis Koostachin is a crisis intervention worker for Attawapiskat. He said the problem of low incomes is exacerbated by the high price of supplies.

“The people who are in low income, they face this everyday,” said Koostachin. “They struggle to buy stuff, some of them. It’s just expensive here because it’s isolated.”

So why is the community sending meat as part of their supplies?

Part of the celebration of Eid-al-Adha is the sacrifice of an animal and a donation of its meat. But the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation takes that tradition a lot further.

Included in their shipment will be 50 boxes of diapers and 60 kilograms of flour, just a portion of the supplies that are being sent to the remote reserve.

Guisti will load the food and supplies onto a trailer and drive it to Thunder Bay, Ont., and then send the goods off by air from there.

“I am fulfilling first of all my Muslim responsibility, and I am fulfilling my Canadian responsibility, and last, I am fulfilling my responsibility as a human being,” said Guisti.