The provincial and federal governments are fighting to improve the emergency housing crisis in Cat Lake First Nation, however, there has been some back-and-forth on who should be responsible.

An assessment report on the community showed that 75 per cent of homes in the community should be condemned due to black mould infestations – as well as dangerous electrical conditions, roofing issues and bacterial diseases.

The report led to community leadership declaring a state of emergency on January 17. Since then, the community’s crisis has lead to a death of a community member, as well as a number of impetigo cases with youth in the area.

At Queen’s Park in Toronto this week, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to send the province’s Community Health Assessment Team to Cat Lake First Nation immediately.

“Children and families in this community are living in conditions that are unsafe and unacceptable in a province like Ontario. This is an urgent matter. The families seeing rashes on their children’s bodies don’t want to here about jurisdictional squabbles.”

In response, Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford says that he has met with Chief Matthew Keewaykapow, and that there is no ‘jurisdictional squabble’.

“The Chief and I shared our profound disappointment for a federal government that has failed these communities time and time again. We’re calling on the federal government to take action, and we will continue to support this community and find some solutions.”

“But ultimately, this rests with the federal government to build new homes and remedy homes in the community,” added Rickford.

Rickford has suggested that the provincial government is looking at moving some members away from their mould-infested homes. Roughly 10 portable homes will be made available so demolition on the community’s mould-infested homes can begin. In all, 67 new housing units are expected within two years.

“I’m fairly disgusted with that response,” said Horwath, following Rickford’s comments. “When you see the pictures of the kids who are suffering, and a minister who pretends that there is no jurisdictional squabble, and that his first response is to put it on the federal government as their responsibility.”

Horwath noted that Ontario has signed treaties that require the province to get involved with health-care concerns in First Nation communities, and says that Rickford needs to “step up to the plate and do the right thing.”

“This is an ongoing failure by the federal government as it pertains to housing and infrastructure,” said Rickford, in his response. “Cat Lake is just one of many communities who suffered and have been failed miserably. Big promises for these communities, but nothing on-reserve.”

Late last week, Kenora MP Bob Nault and the federal government signed an interim agreement to address the community’s housing and health-care challenges, with a $10 million investment.

The interim agreement between Ottawa and Cat Lake includes:

$1.5 M - lot servicing
$3.5 M - 15 new homes
$2.1 M - renovations and repairs existing homes
$2 M - delivery and install of portable units
$1 M - (additional funds)  shipping and delivery, site prep etc for  portable units

Total: $10.1 Million

The total does not include:
$199,000 + for environmental assessment of homes and
$521,000 for winter roads to maintain them for delivery of material.

For more information:
Nault announces funds for Cat Lake housing
Mamakwa, Nault respond to housing crisis

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