Kashechewan First Nation is getting ready to evacuate, again

It’s spring in Canada and that means the community of Kashechewan is preparing to evacuate to escape rising waters.

Nearly every year, the Cree community on the western shores of James Bay gets flooded out.

And for nearly a decade, the community and the federal government have talked about relocating the community to higher ground.

“I think people here are just getting fed up with going into an emergency mode every time, this time of year,” said Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon.

Kaschechewan sits on the Albany River, just inland of James Bay.

Just about every year, community members are forced onto planes to flee.

Relocating the community will cost between $500 million and $1 billion.

During question period Friday, NDP MP Georgina Jolibois brought the issue to the House of Commons.

“This community has been waiting for funding for relocation to higher ground for years. The Liberal budget gave nothing to the community and people are getting desperate,” she said.

“This is not a nation-to-nation relationship. When will the Liberals stop playing games with the lives of Kashechewan’s people and fund their relocation?”

The government’s response gave no indication on when a relocation might take place.

“Our commitment to a long-term relocation plan has not wavered and has not changed,” Dan Vandal, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indigenous Services said.

“In the meantime, we have made significant progress on priorities such as the new modular school that will be installed in September of this year.”

Every evacuation costs the federal government between $18 million to $22 million.

Solomon said it would be good for the federal government to start planning.

“At least to start looking at putting resources into getting ready, like a phased in approach, like a few years plan to get it going,” he said.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Thursday that new structures in the community are being built with relocation in mind.

“When we put in housing, it was 52 units, duplex, some of them five bedrooms, but they were put in modules so they could be moved to higher ground,” said Bennett.

“That will be the same for the school that opens in September.”

A permanent move for Kashechewan could be eight to ten years away.

In the meantime, four communities are preparing to receive evacuees this year.



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