Canada Featured Human Rights — 13 December 2011
Attawapiskat reveals Canada’s real attitude towards reserves

I’ve been following the Attawapiskat plight for some time now.

Back in November a housing crisis was declared on the First Nation’s reserve of approximately 1,800 people. Many residents have been forced out into tents as temperatures plummet to -20ºC. Those lucky enough to have a roof over their head are making do without running water and proper heating.

The wait-list for new housing has ballooned to five years – which is absolutely unacceptable, given the  third world living conditions that residents have been forced into.

The Canadian government is embroiled in controversy and, in typical Harper fashion, they’re keeping as mum as they possibly can.

How could the government allow the conditions become so torrid?

And what part did Attawapiskat residents play in the demise of a community that was once self-sufficient?

The answers to these questions have been murky at best, but if you’re looking for some clarity I suggest you read this.

Attawapiskat breaks my heart – and not from a political standpoint, but from a purely human one. Babies are growing up in deplorable conditions – in our own backyard.

I am so, so, proud to be Canadian – but it’s hard to find a way to rationalize what is happening here, and in other First Nations communities, across the country.

If our country’s general attitude towards these communities isn’t made apparent through the Attawapiskat housing crisis, then the racist comments under many of the news articles associated with it rings the message clear.

Read some of the comments following this article. Or this one. There are some real gems buried in these, and many other threads, blazing with a lack of understanding, a great deal of misinformation, and an all-to-blatant disregard for First Nations peoples.

While the vast majority of Canadians are kind-hearted and well-informed, it’s hard to deny the underpinning of animosity that covers a situation so dire, that even the UN has taken notice.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know who is right or wrong in this situation, and I don’t know how to make it better. But I do know this: we are all living in what I firmly believe is the greatest country in the world.

If we won’t take the time to help and understand one another, I worry about the future of this great nation.

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