Mould problems abound in flood-prone Kashechewan
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, March 25, 2016 10:05PM EDT
Residents of Kashechewan First Nation say they are suffering from mould problems in nearly every house.
The community of roughly 1,800 people has fewer than 280 homes and about 40 are boarded up because of mould or flood damage.
Riva Wynne and her eight children live in a three-bedroom house that’s only a few years old, but she says suspected mould is already hurting her kids.
“They get sick for so long because they’re breathing in mould in their houses so it really takes long for them to get better,” she said.
The Cree reserve, located on the mouth of the Albany River, is evacuated nearly every year due to flooding or fears of flooding. The evacuations cost tens of millions of dollars per year.
In 2005, the Liberal government under Paul Martin agreed to spend roughly $500 million over 10 years to build a new community for Kashechewan residents, about 30 kilometres up river, where it would be less likely to flood.
After the Conservatives were elected that fall, Ontario cabinet minister Alan Pope reviewed options for the community. Pope recommended moving the residents 450 kilometres south to the City of Timmins, where there would be more economic opportunities and easier access to other services like health care.
However, the community’s leaders rejected the suggestion, saying they preferred the $500-million plan.
Conservative Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice rejected both options, committing instead to repairing housing on the flood-prone site, at an estimated cost of $200 million.
The new Liberal government’s budget, released earlier this week, allocates $554 million over two years to improve housing across the country’s 600 First Nations.
Kashechewan drew headlines earlier this week after doctors were flown into the community to examine more than 50 people with skin problems, some of which appear to have been exacerbated by unsanitary living conditions and a lack of access to doctors.
The community has no hospital and doctors visit only about once every two weeks.
NDP indigenous affairs critic and MP for Timmins-James Bay said he is “disturbed” that the budget promoted “zero dollars for health care for First Nations.”
Health Minister Jane Philpott, a doctor, said “we will certainly be looking at making sure all the appropriate care is there.”
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, also a doctor, told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday that she believes “every kid deserves to grow up healthy.”
With a report from CTV National Correspondent Katie Simpson