Most people welcome spring unless you live in Kashechewan.
Springtime on the land of the First Nation in northern Ontario can only mean one thing.
It’s time to leave.
The ice will soon break on the Albany River and the first of 2,500 members were to begin flying out last Monday.
“They don’t look forward to spring because spring means uncertainty, spring means losing school and spring may mean losing their home,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus on Nation to Nation Thursday.
“That’s not what we should be feeling when we see the temperature change and the sound of geese coming. It is traumatic on a number of levels.”
The community was built on a flood plain and the dyke built by the former Harper government doesn’t work, nor can it be fixed said Angus.
Things were supposed to change under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Promises were made to move the community to higher ground.
But Angus said those promises were never kept.
“It’s clear in the (2019 federal budget) there was no money to move people to the high ground and people are feeling like one more time the government has misrepresented the facts to them and lied to them,” said Angus.
“Nobody should ever have to leave their homes, certainly not every single year because government doesn’t have a plan.”
Nation to Nation wrote the office of Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan Tuesday inviting the minister on the show to address another year of displaced people in Kashechewan.
It was explained the interview could be done on Skype, much like the interview with Angus who was in Timmins, Ont.
After not getting a response, a follow-up email was sent Wednesday morning triggering a response from O’Regan’s spokesman, Kevin Deagle, who said he was working on securing a time.
Later that afternoon Deagle wrote again.
“Unfortunately the Minister does not have availability for an interview today or tomorrow. Can we keep in touch over the next weeks to see if there is an alternative time that works? Thanks!” said Deagle.
Over the next weeks?
Nation to Nation stressed the urgency to Deagle as people were fleeing and unless it was a personal matter O’Regan should reconsider his availability. No such personal issue was flagged by Deagle, O’Regan simply wasn’t available even via Skype.
It was also pointed out that O’Regan’s Facebook page had several funding announcements and selfies in Newfoundland and Labrador through the week when residents were fleeing.
Nation to Nation didn’t hear back.
Angus said Kashechewan, and even himself, believed this problem would have been addressed by now.
“I think what makes this year worse was there was a real sense in 2017, when we signed the new agreement with the government, that maybe the Trudeau government was serious about following through,” he said.
“They need a partner and right now that partner is the Trudeau government and they quite frankly have just been like any other government of broken promises and empty words.”