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From Attawapiskat to a Mexican Jail Cell

Some conversations are just so surreal. On a recent minus thirty-something afternoon in Attawapiskat, as we tried to update, untangle, deconstruct, make-any-sense-whatsoever of the housing and political crisis that is now under a national microscope, the subject suddenly veered. "How's Cyndi?" asked Lindy Mudd. Mudd is a man who was one of few who agreed to talk at length with us on this trip. Most of the conversation was about whether he felt Attawapiskat had a future, particularly a future for him and his family. So, he threw me with the question.

"Cyndi?"

"Cyndi Vanier." he said, "We're thinking of her here."

What a connection. Cyndi or Cynthia Vanier is of course an Ontario woman who sits in a Mexican jail cell. Already held for 40 days, Mexican authorities decided in December to hold her for yet another 40 days. There have been no charges, just eyebrow raising accusations. She is alleged to be the mastermind behind a plot to spirit Saadi Gadhafi to safety and obscurity in Mexico. Her family and friends believe none of it and frankly neither do the people of Attawapiskat.

Mudd explains that they met Vanier a few years ago when she came to help mediate a deal between the First Nation and Debeer's. "I'm so surprised by this," Mudd told us. He maintains she reached out to the community in striking ways; offering the use of a plane to transport one of Mudd's children to hospital after she'd been hit in the eye with a pellet gun. When a local man fell through the ice and drowned it was Vanier he said who stopped what she was doing and used all her contacts to try to get police divers here to retrieve the body. He described a woman who listened unfailingly. And he says he'd love to talk with her now as he believes she had a good, long look at the financial statements at the band office.

She'd undoubtedly have an opinion on what's happened in this community while she's been locked up. Word has spread here that she's been sick in that Mexican jail and is struggling. "They said some prayers for her at church," Mudd told us.

An isolated community connected to an isolated soul far away.

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