Sudbury

Stay or go? Kashechewan referendum to decide if community stays or leaves

A referendum will be held in Kashechewan next week on whether the flood-prone community should be moved.

Community victimized by repeated flooding, now residents are deciding if it's worth it to stay

Only a few people in Kashechewan wait out the flooding while most residents are evacuated to neighbouring cities. (Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press)

A referendum will be held in Kashechewan next week on whether the flood-prone community should be moved.

Band officials will be going door-to-door with referendum ballots to ask the 2,000 band members if the community should stay in the floodplain of the Albany River or move elsewhere.

A similar vote in 2008 showed a majority of people in Kashechewan wanted to move to a site further up river.

But at the time, the federal government decided the plan was too expensive and instead promised to invest in flood-proofing the community.

If the upcoming vote is decisive, it may convince the new federal government to pay for the community's relocation, said deputy chief Hosea Wesley.

"We already stated that Kashechewan First Nation wants to relocate to higher and safer ground, but the government of Canada needs their back-up documentation," Wesley said.

Referendum is to ask 'if' community should move, but not 'where'

But the vote will not deal with the question of where the community should move. Those suggestions will be released after a study is completed next month.

"That's where we're going to identify sites where a safer, sustainable community will be," Wesley said.

The study is focusing on two locations on higher ground further up the Albany River.

One of them is a spot called Site 5, which a majority of Kashechewan band members voted for in a 2007 survey, Wesley said.

Still, some feel the community should move out of isolation and to the outskirts of a city like Timmins or Kapuskasing.

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