O'Regan to visit Attawapiskat at request of chief: minister's office

OTTAWA — The office of Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said Sunday he will be visiting Attawapiskat First Nation at the request of the community's chief.

The northern Ontario reserve declared a state of emergency earlier this month due to concerns about chemical levels in the water.

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Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler tweeted on Sunday that he was also going to visit Attawapiskat with the minister, where they would meet with the leadership and community members.

Fiddler said he was looking forward to a "very productive meeting" to identify immediate and long-term measures to address infrastructure issues, adding there is "lots of work to do."

Earlier this week, NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Tracey Ramsey visited the community and called on the minister to do the same.

Members of the community are worried about being able to safety bathe their children, Angus said on Wednesday, adding that is "not acceptable." Angus represents the federal riding encompassing the reserve.

"I'm asking Minister O'Regan to actually come to the community, meet people, to see what it is like on the ground so he understands what the community is facing and then he hopefully will understand the importance of stepping up and working with them," he said in an interview.

O'Regan's office has said the federal government is aware of community concerns about the water, adding that addressing the issue in "full partnership" is a top priority.

It says that $1.5 million has been approved for immediate repairs to the reserve's existing water treatment plan and that clean drinking water is available from a second system.

"We will continue to work with Attawapiskat and all First Nations communities to ensure they have access to safe, clean water," the office said in a statement on Wednesday.

In previous years, Attawapiskat has drawn national attention for its 2012 housing crisis and more recently for issues with youth suicide.

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