Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cat Lake Leaders Slam Political Inaction; Warn Mould May Force Evacuation

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cat Lake Leaders Slam Political Inaction; Warn Mould May Force Evacuation

Article excerpt

Mould may force Cat Lake evacuation, leaders say

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TORONTO - Angry and frustrated leaders of a remote northern Ontario reserve warned on Friday they will be forced to evacuate their community unless they receive immediate help dealing with mould-infested housing and their ailing children.

A month after Cat Lake First Nation declared an emergency over the squalid conditions that have left more than 100 children ill with severe skin conditions and lung infections, the community said both the federal and provincial governments have done little to help.

"Nothing has been done. No action has been taken," Abigail Wesley, the deputy chief, said at the Ontario legislature. The situation, she said, was desperate.

Almost 100 homes in the fly-in Ojibway community north of Sioux Lookout are in such bad shape due to mould, bare wiring and cracked foundations that they need to be demolished. The problem is that there are no other housing options.

The roughly 450 residents of the community said they have been asking for help since 2006 to no avail. Poor health has become endemic, they said, with an average of one person every three days having to be medevaced out for health care. Treatment in the community comprises essentially of ointment and inhalers that can't fix the underlying problem, residents said.

Joyce Cook, a band councillor, said the skin and lung ailments are taking a toll on the mental health of those afflicted. The community urgently needs both the federal and provincial governments to step up -- and right away, she said.

"We're not even being recognized or heard," Cook said. "It's just an echo through the woods."

For his part, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said on Friday that government officials and community representatives discussed an independent health assessment during a "technical meeting" on Feb. …

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