The evacuees from Kashechewan are heading home. Eight days ago, on May 2nd, the Municipality of Wawa declared a state of emergency in order to host the evacuees. As in the past, rising waters on the Albany River and its major tributaries made the evacuation necessary. This is the fifth consecutive year of evacuation disrupting the community. in 2014, the entire community of 2,000 was evacuated. Evacuees arrived in Wawa on May 3rd in three flights.
Throughout the province more than 1,100 evacuees were hosted. Wawa was joined by other host communities: Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, and Thunder Bay. 102 were hosted in Wawa.
With flood waters on the Albany River system retreating, it is safe for the evacuees to return home. The first flight left about 11:30 (Air Inuit) and a second flight arrived about 12:30; a third flight was observed landing at 1:20. Mayor Ron Rody stated that “Wawa continues to be very proud to have the dedicated staff and facilities to provide a safe but temporary environment for our friends from Kashechewan.” Mayor Rody went on to say; “Wawa is very lucky to have such a dynamic, caring municipal staff and system of volunteers, on behalf of the Municipality of Wawa, I thank you all.”
While in Wawa the evacuees were hosted in local hotels, and enjoyed community meals at the Michipicoten Memorial Community Centre catered by Judy Moore and her staff.
The hosting of the evacuees in Wawa involved the following ministries and services (MyWawa apologizes if anyone is missed): The Office of the Fire Marshall, Emergency Management Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Canadian Red Cross, Municipality of Wawa, Wawa and Area Victim Services, and Ontario Provincial Police.
Kashechewan First Nation
Press Release on Pre-emptive Evacuation
As of Monday, May 9th, 2016, Chief and Council feels that as of this morning, after the Elders took the Surveillance flight to check the amount of ice left and the river level, have judged we were out of danger. Based on the Elder’s recommendations, Chief and Council have formally rescinded the Pre-emptive evacuation on the Emergency Declaration for our members due to potential Flood Risks. The evacuation has been very frustrating and has been especially hard on our Elders and children. We are glad that the danger is now over and feel confident and pray they will be safe returning home. The repatriation will start as soon as tomorrow and the necessary arrangements are being made for everybody to be home safe.
Our members both at home and in Kapuskasing are miserable and angry at how past agreements with the Government of Canada has unraveled to this date. They are concerned about the dyke safety and can see the panic measures put in place by INAC every spring. My people need to have comfort and safety in real terms to their lives. My people need to maintain their connection with the river in social, cultural and traditional ways and their spiritual being with the land, that they have always done and their ancestors before them. They now feel that all of these are lost by the way the government handle our people in the past ten years, The recent health scare with our children and the many suicides that we had to deal with over the winter months shows that our members recognize that many different factors affect their health and lifestyle. We, as Leaders must look at these factors in a holistic way and not just address the symptoms.
This evacuation and our children’s health concerns since last month outline the many different root issues causing an unsafe environment for our members. This is not just statements made by ourselves but also by professionals experienced in their chosen fields that point to many inter-related issues involving the aging infrastructure and overcrowding of homes.
Chief and Council has recently renewed discussions with the Government of Canada to enact a past Memorandum of Understanding from 2007 and a prior commitment from 2005, with respect to the above. While there will be no quick and easy solutions, this discussion could lead to a common understanding of the base issues affecting many similar First Nations and how to resolve the issues on a Nation to Nation basis.
Chief and Council wishes to extend a deep gratitude and thank you to all parties that have assisted on the Evacuation. The involvement of different Federal and Provincial agencies and other Non-Government Organization’s (NGO’s) helped make a difficult situation as comfortable as possible for our members. We salute the commitment shown by all parties involved in the evacuation.