If you noticed a few more Attawapiskat-themed tweets in your Twitter feed today, that's likely because some activists had called for a "hashtag occupation" on December 7, to keep the issues facing the troubled native reserve on people's radar through use of the hashtag #attawapiskat.
The call went out on December 2 from blogger Stephen Elliot-Buckley, who asked readers of his blog Politics Respun to make an effort to get the hashtag trending today. At this point in the day it hasn't yet come to pass, but there have been more developments in the Attawapiskat story, keeping the community's woes in the public eye.
The First Nations reserve first declared a state of emergency in late October, due to the severe housing crisis facing its residents. Many are living in unheated shacks or tents with no access to plumbing or electricity. While the declaration made little initial impact, the crisis eventually gained national attention: Activists asked the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs to explain how a community under government supervision could be left in such dire circumstances, while the government has said it wants to know what become of the millions of dollars it already sent to the area.
Here's what has been happening since then:
1. Military intervention? The federal NDP called upon the Conservative government today to send the army to Attawapiskat. In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, interim party leader Nycole Turmel asked that he "act immediately and target resources, including military resources as requested by the community, towards building adequate housing in Attawapiskat."
Turmel said she was making the request on behalf of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and the community as a whole. "They have asked me to convey that they are asking for military support to help in the response," she wrote.
2. International intervention? Yesterday, Attawapiskat leaders asked if the United Nations could become involved in the crisis. At a meeting of First Nations chiefs in Ottawa, a resolution asking for a special UN rapporteur to investigate the situation in the community was passed. "We have a right to go abroad to international people to say, 'Look, this is what's happening in Canada,' " said Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
3. An Unwelcome Third Party On Monday, the federal appointee in charge of the Attawapiskat band's finances was kicked out of the community. The government last week told the band that it was putting its funds under the management of a third party, citing concern that the $90-million it says it has already sent to Attawapiskat was misspent. To that end, third-party manager Jacques Marion was put in control of government funding and sent to the community - who promptly sent him back again (or at least told him he wasn't welcome). The band confirmed that Marion was asked to leave, saying that a financial audit was the wrong solution to the crisis: "It is incredible that the Harper government's decision is that, instead of offering aid and assistance to Canada's first peoples, their solution is to blame the victim and that the community is guilty and deserving of their fate."
In reply, Michelle Yao, the spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, said that Marion "wished to respect the volatile situation and is currently not in the community ... He remains in full control of funding from Aboriginal Affairs to the community and is hoping to work with the community to address urgent needs."
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