Flooding again drives residents from Kashechewan and Attawapiskat

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Kaschechwan_floodAfter declaring a state of emergency on the weekend of May 10, all 2000 residents of Kashechewan were evacuated via military planes to nearby Ontario communities as sewage backed up into some 40 homes and damaged the local nursing station.

Then, less than a week later, a large-scale evacuation began for the community of Attawapiskat as leaders there declared a state of emergency due to flooding concerns, relocating almost 1000 people to communities across Ontario and Quebec.

Sadly, members of both communities are no strangers to the evacuation process as the same thing happened last spring when melting snow caused flooding and sewer backups. This has been the scenario now for several springs, in which homes and infrastructure are damaged in areas where both are already an issue.

Speaking to the Nation just prior to the state of emergency being declared in Attawapiskat, Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus said it was no surprise that the community of Kashechewan had flooded again.

“Right now (May 16) the evacuation remains in place even though the water has started to recede. The problem is that the nurses’ station has been badly contaminated with sewage and this is not the first time that this has happened. It’s more like the third time. So we cannot move people back in without a proper nursing station,” said Angus.

“I have spoken with the Minister of Health, asking her to make this a priority. My understanding is that this will be the first step because once we get that taken care of we can start looking at the returning of the evacuees.”

Angus said that while the community doesn’t flood every year, it’s more like every other year as it is simply a matter of ice blocking the wrong way and causing a flood.

The sewage backup also damaged 40 homes, the same 40 houses affected by floods last year.

“This is the endless cycle in Kashechewan. The dyke wall is aging and the government keeps putting money into it saying that the dyke will hold things back,” explained Angus.

“But the problem is that even with the water not going over the dyke wall, which would be a catastrophe if it did, the backup of water and sewage into the houses has happened a number of times and has caused not only millions in damage but also trauma to the families who lose their possessions and have to deal with houses that then become contaminated with mould.”

Angus said that this didn’t have to happen as a deal had been made with the community in 2005 to move it to higher ground when Jim Prentice was the minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
According to Angus, the government walked out on that deal in 2007, despite a written commitment to invest $200 million to reinforce a dyke and build better drainage systems to protect low-lying areas from spring flooding.

Seven years later the community is still being evacuated over flood concerns.

“You cannot protect a community on a flood plain against the Albany River with a dyke. It is not going to happen. This has been shown again and again. They fix it and then it floods. Every year they go back and tinker on it, but then there’s the water pressure and the fact that the location is wrong,” said Angus.

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