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Attawapiskat: Won't someone think of the third-party manager?

INAC (Aboriginal Affairs) is busy patting itself on the back for solving all of Attawapiskat’s problems. To hear them tell it, Jacques Marion was a veritable hero, swooping into Attawapiskat in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.

INAC is magnanimously withdrawing its third-party manager, but shouldn’t hold its breath for any thanks from Attawapiskat. That ungrateful community is continuing its lawsuit against the federal government for putting Marion there in the first place!

Okay, so Marion was on vacation in Hawaii recently, and was thus unable to release funds to off-reserve students from Attawapiskat for frivolities like food and shelter. Was this hard-working man not entitled to a little R&R? Students should be used to a diet of ramen noodles and homelessness. It builds character!

The ever hyperbolic Charlie Angus blasted Marion for his $20,000 per month salary as though this has anything to do with off-reserve students being unable to afford bus fare. Why doesn’t he direct his vociferous ire at Chief Spence, who with a bloated salary of $5,798 a month could have gone without payment for her work and instead financed 1932 one way bus fares while Marion was soaking up his well-earned rays?

You may have heard that 22 mobile units have arrived in Attawapiskat. Who is responsible for that? Charlie “Weeps for the Indians” Angus, or Theresa Spence with her Chief-who-cried-wolf declarations of States of Emergency? HECK no! It was Marion who metaphorically carried those units into the community! Pay no mind to the charity that raised money to furnish those units. Furnishings are unnecessary luxuries.

So a few families spent the deepest part of winter in makeshift shelters. Surely they understand that it was much more important to ask where the $90 million went first?

Chief Spence tried to have Marion removed, actually comparing the imposition of a Third Party Manager to the Residential School system, insinuating that Canada does not have an unblemished track record when it comes to exercising complete authority over native peoples. I’m sorry, but removing an elected Chief and Council from power on the basis of unproven accusations of malfeasance is not at all oppressive.

Chief Spence, you are going to have to explain to me how any of the following constitute an ‘urgent crisis’ that created a ‘financial burden’ on Attawapiskat that can possibly raise doubts about the publicly accepted truths of mismanagement and corruption?

- the closure of the elementary school in 2000 due to contaminated soil and toxic fumes;

- the 2004 withdrawal of power by Ontario Power Generation, and the $300,000 per annum expenses to create and maintain electrical supply in the community;

- the 2005 deBeers dump of sewage in Attawapiskat’s lift station;

- the 2006 ice storm and the subsequent evacuation of the hospital;

- the 2008 flood which resulted in evacuation of over a thousand people;

- the 2009 sewage backup resulting in 3 dead and 90 homeless.

It’s not as though Attawapiskat has had to deal with situations all that different than those faced by any small town, so please, a little less exaggeration would be appreciated.

It is also a little tacky to be celebrating Marion’s removal. This hero has just lost his job. Where is the compassion for your fellow man?

Please end this court battle which: “seek[s] a declaration that the decision to impose the third-party manager was unlawful, and seek[s] to refute the suggestion by the Prime Minister of Canada that 'management problems' caused the housing crisis suffered by the First Nation”.

Is clearing your name, and the name of the community in this matter really all that important in the grand scheme of things? Instead of playing the blame game, why not wish Marion well and move on with your lives? You don’t see Prime Minister Harper smack talking you in the media. Anymore.

This article was also published on the author's blog, âpihtawikosisân.

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