'You have to be on the ground to believe it': MPP calls for action over Cat Lake housing crisis
Community declared state of emergency last week over mould, structural issues in 87 homes
A Northern Ontario MPP is calling on the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to end Cat Lake's housing crisis.
The community, which is located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency last week over problems with 87 homes there.
The problems include mould, structural and foundational issues, problems with electircal wiring, and leaking roofs.
- Cat Lake First Nation declares state of emergency over illness, death from 'profoundly poor' housing
"The state of emergency is necessary," said MPP Sol Mamakwa (NDP — Kiiwetinoong). "The dangerous living conditions, to be allowed in Ontario, Canada, is completely unacceptable."
Mamakwa said he visited the community on Wednesday. Now, he's urging his counterparts in the provincial and federal governments to do the same.
'People are dying'
"You have to be on the ground to see it, you have to be on the ground to believe it," he said. "They need to visit the community, that's number one."
The responses so far, Mamakwa said, amount to "jurisdictional ping-pong."
"While Ottawa blames Queen's Park, while Queen's Park blames Ottawa, our people in my riding, such as Cat Lake, they are hurting," he said. "Even to the point where people are dying from that lack of action."
A statement from Cat Lake leadership issued last week said some residents are undergoing medevacs due to lung and respiratory problems brought on by the housing crisis. Building assessments have also called for the demolition of 87 homes in the community.
Talk of evacuation
Mamakwa said he'll be keeping in contact with Cat Lake leadership, as well as Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN).
"When I did the community visit, there was some talk about evacuation if there's no action," he said. "We need to respond."
"Our people have treated this way for far too long," Mamakwa said. "We are treated very differently, treated as second-class citizens, as if we do not matter. And we've gotta get away from that. We need humanity back in these processes."
NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler also issued a call for a "coordinated response by the federal and provincial governments" to address the Cat Lake state of emergency."
"It is unacceptable that the people of Cat Lake suffer in living conditions that would be intolerable in mainstream society," the statement reads. "We will support Chief and Council to ensure that the necessary housing improvements are made available as quickly as possible, especially for high-risk community members such as infants and youth, the infirmed and the aged."