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NDP accuse federal Liberals of ‘systemic neglect’ on reserves after Oneida tragedy

NDP accuse federal Liberals of ‘systemic neglect’ on reserves after Oneida tragedy

Two Row Times with the Canadian Press and PostMedia LONDON – NDP aboriginal affairs critic Charlie Angus says that it’s not just bad housing that’s killing Canada’s indigenous people, but also inadequate fire protection, unsafe heating, and overcrowding, In the wake of a fire that killed a father and four young sons this week in

Two Row Times with the Canadian Press and PostMedia

LONDON – NDP aboriginal affairs critic Charlie Angus says that it’s not just bad housing that’s killing Canada’s indigenous people, but also inadequate fire protection, unsafe heating, and overcrowding,

In the wake of a fire that killed a father and four young sons this week in the Oneida territory southwest of London, federal MP Angus put the blame on the federal Liberals Friday for a tragedy he’s says he’s seen too often in Northern Ontario–a tragedy that was reported widely this week across Canada in PostMedia, CBC, CTV, and the Canadian Press.

“We’re seeing the systemic neglect of the basic safety for indigenous people,” Angus, the Timmins-James Bay MPP, told The London Free Press.

“Meanwhile, little children are dying. People are living in risky and dangerous conditions.”

But the minister in charge of First Nations affairs said the government will address shortfalls left by years of chronic under-funding.

“Our government is committed to closing the unacceptable housing gap for Indigenous people,” Carolyn Bennett, minister of indigenous and northern affairs, said in an emailed statement.

“The wide-reaching need for improved infrastructure — like housing, community centres, and fire protection services — is a result of years of chronic under-funding. Our government knows that more needs to be done,” she said.

Every year as Christmas approaches, people in First Nations communities turn up their inadequate heating systems in crowded and substandard houses and die, Angus said.

“This is the time of year these terrible accidents and death happen,” Angus said.

The death rate by fire is 10.4 times higher on First Nations communities than for the rest of Canada, with the rate of fires 2.4 times greater, says a 2007 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) study.

That same CMHC study found low numbers of smoke detectors and regular inspections of smoke detectors in First Nations communities.

”You have as much chance of winning the lottery as getting a nice house on a reserve,” Angus said.

Statistics back him up. Almost 41 per cent of homes on reserves needed major repair as of 2011, according to federal government figures.

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