Where’s the relief?

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It is always heartening to see how Canada springs into action to help victims of disasters around the world. They send in medical supplies, food and on-the-ground personnel to assist those in need. Even in Canada the Fort McMurray residents fleeing their homes because of wildfires saw a rapid response.

So, where’s the relief when it comes to First Nations? Sadly, the second-class citizen status First Nations appear to be saddled with comes into play. This has never been more evident than in Cat Lake First Nation. The fly-in community 600 km north of Thunder Bay has endured a health crisis for years with no urgent response from the federal government.

Out of sight, out of mind as they say. Only when the community declared a state of emergency did someone listen. Black mould has built up in homes to the point where children and Elders are getting dangerously ill. Pictures of children with red rashes looked like something out of the poorest third-world countries. Anybody who isn’t disturbed that this is a Canadian community is truly heartless. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to recognize these deplorable conditions as a national disgrace in Parliament.

Cat Lake is considering an emergency evacuation because of the health problems. Those problems may have played a part in the recent death of 48-year-old Nashie Oombash. She had many ailments, including pneumonia, and because of the mould doctors wanted her to leave the house. She was medevaced out of the community for treatment, but it was too late. She died a month later. In the last two weeks, three children have been sent out for medical reasons.

So, where’s the relief? Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement, “A paediatric respirology medical doctor arrived in the community to begin an independent health assessment and treatment of individuals identified by the community. We will address the results of the assessment as soon as they are available, on an urgent basis.‎”

NDP MP Charlie Angus spoke about and posted pictures of Cat Lake victims a month ago. But discussions in Parliament haven’t delivered results to the community. Perhaps the Cat Lake First Nation should apply for humanitarian assistance from the United Nations since the feds appear unable to help their own citizens.

The pictures show that the feds’ promised housing assessment is nothing more than killing time. O’Regan also said they will speed up housing material needed for repairs, a seven-unit housing complex and for new construction.

An idea might be to look at some of the prefab homes available around the world. The Ark-Shelter, comes in one- and two-bedroom models and begins at around $60,000. Ikea has a unit that includes all furnishings starting at less than $90,000. It might be a cost-effective solution for Cat Lake and other communities like them while they’re waiting for some relief.

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