Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

December 05, 2011 14:21 ET

Update on Government of Canada's Response to Attawapiskat: Statement from Minister Duncan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 5, 2011) - The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, issued the following statement today:

"The urgent health and safety needs of Attawapiskat First Nation continue to be a priority for our Government. Since 2006, we have invested over $90 million in the community of Attawapiskat. However, this funding has not generated the results that the people of Attawapiskat deserve and all Canadians expect. We are working closely with Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) and the community to ensure families have access to warm, safe and dry shelter.

When requests from the community were received we took immediate action. Within 24 hours of receiving an urgent funding proposal from the community, funding was immediately approved to address critical housing repairs. Supplies have also been ordered so that multiple families will have permanent homes shortly. In addition, AANDC and EMO are also working with community representatives to implement the First Nation's Emergency Management Plan. This includes facilities that they have identified that can be used to provide medium-term shelter and equipment that is needed on an urgent basis for residents currently staying in temporary shelters. We will continue working with our partners to ensure this community has the supplies it needs going into the winter months.

Last week, I announced plans to put in place a third party manager to address the urgent needs of the community and to ensure the funding provided to this community is being spent effectively. Today, the chosen third party manager, Jacques Marion from BDO Canada LLP, is on the ground with AANDC officials. It is important to remember that the community's Chief and Council will continue to be in place. We encourage all parties to work together to implement the First Nation's existing emergency management plan.

I have also requested that a comprehensive audit be undertaken by an independent auditor to identify how money has been spent and what oversight measures have been taken over the past five years. If there are problems identified, we will take immediate action to address them to ensure long-term solutions for the community.

Our government has introduced important legislation that protects the rights of First Nation individuals. This includes the introduction of legislation to ensure financial transparency and accountability. We have also passed legislation that makes sure First Nations have the same human rights protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act as other Canadians. We also intend to re-introduce the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which will for the first time create enforceable standards for drinking water on reserve.

Our government has a plan and we will continue to invest in practical and long-term solutions for First Nations communities across the country."

This statement is also available on the Internet at www.aandc-aadnc.gc.ca

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Fact Sheet

Here are the facts:

  • The Government of Canada has invested significant funding in the community of Attawapiskat . However, this funding has not generated the results that the people of Attawapiskat deserve and all Canadians expect.

  • In 2000, the previous government placed the community into co-management. To be clear, a co-manager is hired by and accountable to a First Nation. A co-manager is not a government official.

  • Various Ministers have attempted to work with the community to address their serious capacity and infrastructure challenges. Since 2006, the Government of Canada has invested more than $28 million in community infrastructure in this community.

  • These investments include $9.5 million in water and wastewater infrastructure, $9.3 million for education facilities, $4.3 million for housing on-reserve and $5.4 million for other infrastructure. In addition, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has provided $2.27 million to Attawapiskat First Nation.

  • To be clear, while the department allocates funding to specific areas, it is Chiefs and Councils who ultimately make decisions on how to spend the funding to meet their communities' needs.

  • On October 28, 2011, it was brought to the department's attention that five families were living in temporary shelters.

  • When a request from the community was received we took immediate action. Within 24 hours of receiving an urgent proposal from the community, immediate money was approved to address critical housing repairs.

  • On November 24, 2011, it was brought to the department's attention that there were more people living in temporary shelters

  • On November 28, AANDC officials were sent to the community to carry out an on-the-ground assessment and they determined that there were urgent health and safety issues.

  • On November 30, 2011, as a result of the urgent health and safety needs identified, Minister Duncan announced that a Third Party Manager will be put in place.

  • The Minister also ordered a comprehensive and independent audit be undertaken to identify how money has been spent and what oversight measures have been taken over the past five years. If there are problems identified, the Government will take action to address them.

Contact Information

  • Minister's Office
    Moira Wolstenholme
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Honourable John Duncan
    819-997-0002

    Media Relations
    Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
    819-953-1160