What if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came?
It's been three weeks since Attawapiskat First Nation took the extraordinary step of declaring a state of emergency. Since then, not a single federal or provincial official has even bothered to visit the community.
No aid agencies have stepped forward. No disaster management teams have offered help.
Meanwhile temperatures have dropped 20 degrees and will likely drop another 20 or 25 degrees further in the coming weeks. For families living in uninsulated tents, makeshift cabins and sheds, the worsening weather poses serious risk.
Two weeks ago I travelled to this community on the James Bay coast to see why conditions had become so extreme that local leaders felt compelled to declare a state of emergency. It was like stepping into a fourth world.
I spoke with one family of six who had been living in a tiny tent for two years. I visited elderly people living in sheds without water or electricity. I met children whose idea of a toilet was a plastic bucket that was dumped into the ditch in front of their shack....
Try to imagine this situation happening in anywhere else in this country. We all remember how the army was sent into Toronto when the mayor felt that citizens were being discomforted by a snowstorm. Compare that massive mobilization of resources with the disregard being shown for the families in Attawapiskat.