Sudbury

Attawapiskat leaders to help guide long-term plan for struggling reserve: minister

The federal minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs says plans for the community's future are being made in partnership with the chief and council.

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett visited Attawapiskat

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett, left, NDP MP Charlie Angus, centre, and Chief Bruce Shisheesh, right, hold hands as they speak with a youth panel in Attawapiskat, Ont. on Monday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs visited Attawapiskat. She says long term plans are in the works to help the community. She shared some details with the CBC's Kate Rutherford.

The federal minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs says plans for the community's future are being made in partnership with the chief and council.

Carolyn Bennett spent Monday afternoon in the community, which is still under a state of emergency due to a surge in suicide attempts.

She said a youth centre and better housing are in the works — but she said she wants continued guidance to form a plan that will address problems in First Nations right across the country.

"I've committed to setting up a youth advisory committee to help me with priorities and make sure, as we develop plans for young indigenous people, coast-to-coast-to-coast, that I will have their guidance," she said.

Chief Bruce Shisheesh, left, Carolyn Bennett, centre, and Charlie Angus, right, meet in the northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat, which recently declared a state of emergency over a rash of suicides. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

People living in healing lodge

Bennett noted housing is desperately needed in Attawapiskat — and there will be new construction and remediation of existing houses.

People shouldn't have to live in the community's healing lodge, she added.

"The healing centre that was there in the community, but now has been used as overflow housing, we need to get that healing centre back doing the work [that] was its original purpose —  healing and wellness for the community."

Bennett didn't have any specifics on long-term health care plans for the First Nation, once a team of emergency workers leaves in a few weeks.

Teen boys throw rocks in the northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat, Ont., on Monday. Many youth at the heart of the suicide crises there say they have nothing to do on the fly-in first nation. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus was with Bennett during the visit Monday.

He is organizing a trip to Ottawa for Attawapiskat's young people, to be hosted by Senator Murray Sinclair.

Sinclair, a new senate appointment, is a First Nations lawyer, and was the chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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