In the late fall of 2011 the remote First Nations community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency. In Northern Ontario, with winter approaching temperatures even in late October drop below 30 degrees celsius. The housing conditions in Attawapiskat were of an exceptionally deep state of neglect. People, Canadian Citizens were living in tents, sheds and shacks, some without plumbing, so no sinks or even working toilets, tarps as roofs and without heat.
I was sent to tour the grounds and speak to residents of Attawapiskat with Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmell and MP Charlie Angus.
The Harper Conservatives and their kindred pundits alike decided to place blame directly on the leadership and community of Attawapiskat. They leaned on First Nations stereotypes in media talking points and in the House of Commons during Question Period. They perpetuated a traditional ‘blame the indian’ story and fed misinformation to attempt to stir anger about Aboriginal people. Painting these communities as inept fiscal stewards and socially dependant. Then they parachute in their third party manager with what was supposed to be a white hat to save the day as all hero cowboys do.
“The federal government placed the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario under third-party management on Wednesday after it declared a state of emergency last month due to abhorrent living conditions.”
Amy Chung, National Post.
“The determination to stay in such isolated locations has led to a cycle of poverty, violence, alcoholism and illiteracy.”
John Ivison, National Post.
“Attawapiskat has been a moment when we see our nation as something less than we thought it was. But I believe Canadians want us to restore the promise of this great nation. All across this country, school groups and individuals continue to organize fundraising drives. The Red Cross continues to deal with the catastrophe. The world continues to watch.”
Charlie Angus, MP Timmins–James Bay.
“How is it that school boards, parents, police and editorialists rightly tell young people to speak up against the humiliation of individual youth online but don’t seem to notice when the hate is turned towards First Nation children?”