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‘Third World’ conditions cause of Attawapiskat water issues, Public Health doctor says

A doctor with Public Health Ontario says sub-standard housing is the biggest threat to the health of people living in Attawapiskat.

Dr. Ray Copes is with Public Health Ontario. (www.publichealthontario.ca)

A doctor with Public Health Ontario says sub-standard housing is the biggest threat to the health of people living in Attawapiskat.

Dr. Ray Copes was in the community this week to talk to people about elevated levels of trihalomethanes in their water. His visit followed NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s tour of the community, as well as a visit from NDP MP Charlie Angus.

The THM levels are over the Canada drinking water standard but still under the World Health Organization limit.

Copes says he came away with the realization that there are more serious problems in the remote First Nation.

“There are problems with the drinking water supply but there are many other problems and challenges that the community and many other First Nation communities are facing,” Copes said. ” I think there’s a pressing need there to improve many of the conditions on these reserves.”

Copes says he saw mouldy homes and problems with sewage treatment that posed health hazards.

“I’ll be quite honest, I can only describe the condition of some of the housing that I was shown, what most Canadians would really think of as being Third World type housing rather than the type of housing we expect to see in Canada for Canadians,” Copes said.

Copes said he’ll prepare a report along with others from the province who visited and it will be shared with Indigenous Services Canada.

Statement from the Minister of Indigenous Services

A spokesperson for Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister for Indigenous Services, said in a statement that closing the gaps in Indigenous housing is a priority of the Liberal government.

“To date, in Attawapiskat First Nation, we have invested over $8 million to help address Attawapiskat’s housing needs,” the emailed statement read.

“More broadly, Budget 2018 invested $600 million over three years for a First Nations housing strategy. We have also built and renovated over 16,000 homes.”

“This funding is a significant step towards addressing the housing needs in Indigenous communities.”

“We are committed to working with Attawapiskat First Nation ensuring safe, clean water, closing the housing gap and ensuring a health community.”

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