Government officials to examine ‘serious housing’ situation in Cat Lake

OTTAWA _ Senior regional officials will meet with the northern Ontario community of Cat Lake on Tuesday to develop short- and long-term plans for its “serious housing” situation, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said Monday.

O’Regan said he has spoken with Cat Lake’s Chief Matthew Keewaykapow and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler to discuss concerns about housing in the community.

“I remain committed to working in partnership with the community to implement solutions,” he said in a statement.

Community leaders in Cat Lake, several hundred kilometres north of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency earlier this month and cited “profoundly poor conditions of housing.”

The declaration listed mould, structural issues and a lack of funds for routine maintenance as the causes of health problems including invasive bacterial diseases and lung infections.

“People continually encounter the effects of federal and provincial jurisdictional squabbling leading to inequitable access to not only health care, but meaningful solutions to the epidemic proportions of the emergency,” it said.

O’Regan needs to visit the community himself, Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said Monday, adding it is the perfect opportunity for a new minister to show leadership to address a “health and humanitarian disaster” unfolding in frigid temperatures.

A crisis of this magnitude has been years in the making, he said.

“When temperatures plunge this cold and you’ve got little children in homes where the walls are full of mould, people start to get sick and people are being medevaced out,” Angus said. “We have an emergency.”

Ontario Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford issued a statement earlier this month saying that the on-reserve housing emergency is a federal responsibility and calling on Ottawa to deliver immediate help.

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