Sudbury

Early spring flooding sends Kashechewan First Nation out on the land

Kashechewan First Nation has begun its annual evacuation — earlier than planned.

Upwards of 1,200 people will be living on the land, as they did last year

Photos taken of the break-up on the Albany River by Kashechewan flood monitors in 2020. (James Goodwin)

Kashechewan First Nation has begun its annual evacuation — earlier than planned.

The flood-prone James Bay community evacuates each year, usually flying residents to urban centres. But for the second year in a row, most community members will instead be living on the land.

It's something the community of roughly 2,000 people organized last year, because of the threat of COVID-19.

Chief Leo Friday says the pandemic adds to existing concerns about sending people to other communities.

"Going onto the land is really peaceful, and no worries happening, like what happens when we go to urban centres," he said.

"We really have a lot of worries —  a lot of alcohol and drugs for our young people."

Friday says the community secured federal funding last week to supply people with the gear they need.

Upwards of 1,200 people will be living on the land. Others, including people who are elderly or who have medical conditions, will be taken to hotels in Timmins and Kapuskasing.

Friday says many people are already out in the wilderness, but hundreds more still need to be evacuated.

He says the breakup has started, and flights out of the community began Tuesday afternoon.

With files from Sarah MacMillan

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