Attawapiskat Chief Spence takes battle with Ottawa to court

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence says she’s going to court against Aboriginal Affairs to challenge the department’s decision to impose a third-party manager on her community.

(Students from remote Ontario First Nations attending school in Thunder Bay, Ont., protest in support of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Photo/APTN)

By Tiar Wilson
APTN National News
THUNDER BAY, Ont
.–Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence says she’s going to court against Aboriginal Affairs to challenge the department’s decision to impose a third-party manager on her community.

Spence made the announcement after a nearly two-hour meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan Thursday in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Attawapiskat filed an application to Federal Court seeking a judicial review of the department’s decision to place the band’s finances in the hands of a third-party manager.

The two have been at odds over the minister’s decision to impose a third-party manager, who is basically an outside consultant tasked with taking over the band’s finances.

Duncan announced the imposition of the third-party manager as the Conservative government reeled from cross-country outrage and shock over the living conditions in Attawapiskat. The government responded by questioning the band council’s management of federal funds.

Several families in Attawapiskat have been living in tents and in shacks with no insulation. With winter approaching, health care professionals warned the living conditions could prove deadly for people in Attawapiskat.

Spence told reporters she was frustrated with the lack of focus on the community’s state of emergency, which was declared at the end of October. She said the focus has instead shifted to Attawapiskat’s books, which the band council posted on-line for all to read.

Duncan, however, stuck firm and refused to reverse the third-party manager decision during the meeting. The minister said conditions on the reserve would be improved quicker if the leadership was willing to work with the $1,300 a-day consultant.

The department has already said it would be sending up 22 modular homes, being built in Fredericton, NB, to the community by the end of January.

Much of the aid provided to Attawapiskat has been delivered by the Canadian Red Cross, which intervened at the request of the community and the backing of Timmins James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes the community.

The federal government says that it is also involved in sending supplies up the community, including high efficiency wood stove and composting toilets. The healing lodge in the community is also being retrofitted to allow families to live there until the new houses arrive.

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