Monday, February 11, 2019

Our National Shame Continues

MP Charlie Angus, centre, inspects housing on Cat Lake First Nation on Tuesday

Last week a report came out of Cat Lake First Nation, to the north of Thunder Bay, about the housing crisis of that small community. After 110 homes were inspected mould was found in all of them and 87 of the buildings declared uninhabitable. Children there are suffering from skin rashes likely related to the mould and there are other illnesses related to overcrowding.

Signs of a skin condition are seen on an 11-year old boy from Cat Lake,
 who was last week evacuated to London, Ont., for medical care.

Once again we are reminded of what we used to call Third World conditions in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. I had hopes that the current Liberal federal government would fulfill its promises to change the relationships with First Nations and ensure that health, education, and housing issues which exist across the country would be improved. Jane Philpott seemed to making some headway as Minister of Indigenous Services before being shuffled into another cabinet position. Supposedly the paternalistic Indian Act was going to be phased out. I have the sinking feeling that yet another government will make little headway in addressing what some have called Canada's apartheid.

I think of the important work done building homes in First Nations communities by what was first called Operation Beaver, then Frontiers Foundation. It was started by Rev. Charles Catto, the late United Church minister who was involved in this work for nearly 50 years. Charles, a family friend,  would tell us that homes built through the foundation not only included teaching skills to residents, they lasted far longer that the government-built houses. Sadly, Frontiers Foundation no longer exists after building 3,300 homes and renovating thousands more.  

What will it take for Canadians and their governments to recognize the national shame of conditions in First Nations communities?

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Charles Catto Frontiers Foundation

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