Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Focusing attention

More word from the CP on the water problems at Kashechewan: the provincial government will evacuate more than half of the reserve's population starting tomorrow:
David Ramsay said the province plans to fly roughly 1,000 of the Kashechewan First Nation's 1,900 residents off the reserve on the western shores of James Bay starting late Wednesday.

"It is a medical emergency so these people really need to be removed," Ramsay said after a two-hour meeting with native leaders and Premier Dalton McGuinty.

It's good to see some action taken toward the most immediate health concerns. And it looks like any decision to move the reserve generally will be made by its residents rather than being imposed from either level of government - though it's worth watching whether funding concerns are used to try to encourage one choice or the other.

While there are some positives in the action now being taken, the evacuation shouldn't be seen as a meaningful fix for anything. As pointed out by the MPP for the area, it's only a small measure to deal with one of many reserves facing substandard conditions, and was only dealt with due to a media blitz:
New Democrat member Gilles Bisson, who represents the riding of Timmins-James Bay, believes the province would not have acted if the native leaders did not come to Toronto to fight for their community.

"It's rather unfortunate that we have to drag people down from Kashechewan and have to show pictures to get this government to act on what I think is a most basic issue: the question of people's safety."

If Walkerton helped to highlight the issues associated with privatization and encouraged other communities to also watch their water management, hopefully Kashechewan can lead all levels of government to take a serious look at improving conditions on reserves across Canada...rather than refusing to act elsewhere until similar public pressure is applied, and then only once the existing structure is too far gone to salvage.

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