Attawapiskat not optimistic about Harper meeting
Band member doesn't think meeting will change much in First Nation housing dilemma
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with chiefs from across Canada at a gathering in Ottawa, one of the items on the agenda is the chronic housing shortage on reserves. The issue grabbed national headlines, after Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency almost three months ago.
In that community, band member Greg Shisheesh questions what's really changed over the last few months for the families living in wood frame tents and shacks.
"I know one of the elders that lives inside a tent," Shisheesh said. "He's used to it, because he lived in the bush before. But he still wants his grandchildren to live better than him, because times have changed."
A total of 22 modular homes are expected to be shipped to the community on the ice road in mid-February.
Day of Action
As the Assembly of First Nations prepares to meet with the Prime Minister in Ottawa Tuesday, the Whitefish River First Nation is getting ready for a special gathering to mark the occasion.
Chief Shining Turtle said the community’s "Day of Action" will include a pipe ceremony, community circle and potluck.
He said he's optimistic the gathering with the Prime Minister will be more than just a photo-op.
"People are looking for a way forward," he said. "They don't to want the situation in Attawapiskat in our own backyard. I think you have to have a plan — where are Aboriginal people going to be in this society 25 years from now?"
About 150 chiefs are expected to attend the meeting in Ottawa, but others can join in via the Internet.
Housing, education and economic development are some of the items on the agenda.
There's no word on how long it will take to install them, so families can move in.
Lack of information
Meanwhile, the first nation is legally challenging the federal government's decision to put a third party manager in control of the first nation's finances.
There's no word on the application for an injunction either.
Shisheesh said he and others in the community are frustrated with the lack of information about the situation.
As for the upcoming meeting between the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations — he isn't holding his breath.
"I think it's just going to be trying to clear the air so international communities will not think bad of Canada," Shisheesh said.
Stephen Harper has said tomorrow's gathering is only the beginning of a long process in improving conditions on reserves.