OTTAWA, ONTARIO (February 8, 2019) – Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, issued the following statement regarding the housing concerns at Cat Lake:
“Our government is working directly with the leadership of Cat Lake First Nation, alongside partners like Windigo Tribal Council, to address their housing and health concerns. The residents of this community must remain our priority.
As indicated previously, a task force has been created to prioritize the required work and to take immediate action to support the community. On Thursday, a second meeting was held with Cat Lake First Nation leadership, Windigo Tribal Council, the Ontario Regional Chief, and senior department officials from Indigenous Services Canada to affirm commitments and next steps. Another meeting has been scheduled for next week and we will continue to work with the community.
I have once again spoken with Chief Keewaykapow to discuss his concerns, confirm yesterday’s meeting outcomes, and ensure that he and his leadership are comfortable with the plans agreed upon and actions required.
We agreed that we would meet in Thunder Bay in the short term in coordination with AFN National Chief Bellegarde, as well as a visit to the community at a further date as work progresses.
From Thursday’s meeting, it was agreed that Indigenous Services Canada will:
- Expedite delivery of materials required to complete the seven-unit housing complex funded in 2017, for other repairs and for new construction.
- Provide funding for a professional project manager and financial advisor with the support of Windigo Tribal Council.
- Immediately begin repairs on priority units as identified by the task force – including but not limited to mould remediation, weatherstripping, and door and drywall repair or replacement.
- Confirm with the task force the priority units for replacement and solutions for families that require alternate accommodation.
- Ensure that the winter road is maintained regularly and monitored to maintain access to the remote community for people and materials as long as possible this season.
The community is served by a local nursing station operated by Indigenous Services Canada. We will additionally:
- Support and action an independent community medical assessment of identified health issues like rashes and respiratory illness, pending the Chief and Council confirming with ISC their desire to proceed with this option.
- Increase the community’s nursing staff to assist with any additional health-related concerns.
- Expedite the ongoing repairs to the Cat Lake nursing station which should be complete by March 31.
I thank Chief Keewaykapow of Cat Lake First Nation, Windigo Tribal Council, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, and our Regional Office officials for their collaboration in advancing this crucial work through productive and action-oriented meetings.
Our goals are shared: address the immediate health and housing needs of the community while planning and implementing long-term solutions. Our direction comes from the Chief and Council first and foremost.
I would encourage others who are engaged on this issue to work collaboratively with us in moving these actions forward. We will only achieve results when we work together.”