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Signs of bed bugs found in Fort Simpson public housing

Six public housing units in Fort Simpson are showing signs of a bed bug infestation, and the tenants were unaware, says the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Six units showed signs of an infestation and tenants were unaware, says N.W.T. Housing Corporation

A bed bug is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington in 2011. Signs of bed bugs have been found in six public housing units in Fort Smith. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

At least six units in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., public housing are showing signs of a bed bug infestation.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation said staff from the Fort Simpson Housing Authority, which delivers public housing services in the community, found signs of the bugs during door-to-door inspections. 

The tenants didn't know about the bed bugs, the housing corporation said in a press release on Thursday.

It said the housing authority is taking "immediate action" to eradicate the insects and no one will be displaced as a result.

"The treatment process takes four hours and the affected residents will not need to be re-housed due to bed bugs," reads the statement.

Issues at Fort Simpson Housing Authority

Last month, the housing corporation fired the manager and dissolved the board of the Fort Simpson Housing Authority, and appointed an administrator to take over authority.

Local housing authorities in the N.W.T. are responsible for running public housing in their communities. This entails collecting rents, handling evictions, managing finances and maintaining units.

The housing corporation said the manager and board of the Fort Simpson Housing Authority failed to address problems highlighted in a recent audit by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. 

The audit found a potential conflict of interest and instances where money was mismanaged. It also said the manager needed more training in the accounting operations of the authority.

Northwest Territories Housing Corporation president Tom Williams says the decision to dissolve the Fort Simpson Local Housing Authority board and fire its manager was made after it failed to develop a plan to address deficiencies identified in an audit. (CBC)

Meanwhile, some are calling for an independent review of the housing corporation's decision to fire the manager and disband the board. 

On Thursday, the housing corporation said its minister, Alfred Moses, "indicated" that once the authority's operations have been brought back up to an "acceptable standard," a new manager and board will be appointed.

In the meantime, the housing corporation and the Department of Health and Social Services plan to hold a workshop in Fort Simpson on best practices when it comes to bed bug eradication.

Bed bugs an ongoing problem

"Eliminating bed bugs can be challenging if the infestation is extensive or involves complex building structures," Glen Abernethy, the minister of Health and Social Services, said in Thursday's news release. 

"The Environmental Health Unit from the Department of Health and Social Services will continue to provide advice to the NWT Housing Corporation to support them in addressing this problem."

Bed bugs have been an issue in some N.W.T. communities for years, said the housing corporation.

The small, reddish brown insects can be difficult to detect as they typically appear at night and hide in mattresses, furniture and walls. They can travel between buildings on clothing, bedding and luggage.

Bed bugs feed on blood, and bites may be mistaken for mosquito bites. They are not known to spread human diseases, said the housing corporation.

Written by Sidney Cohen with files from Richard Gleeson

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