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NAN needs to address community housing, transportation needs

Thursday November 29, 2012
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Les Louttit, deputy grand chief, says a private road to the Ring of Fire that does not connect to First Nations in the region would be ‘totally wrong.’

Transportation, resource development and housing issues were on the agenda at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Special Chiefs Assembly, held Nov. 13-15 in Thunder Bay, and at least one deputy grand chief believes NAN has a much bigger role to play in helping communities address those issues.

“NAN has to play a more direct role, especially in issues that are going to affect not only the impact on First Nations closer to the Ring of Fire, but those that are on the periphery that are also going to be receiving impacts,” said Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit. “The Shibogama First Nations and the coastal First Nations on Hudson Bay and James Bay coast are already concerned with that development.”

Louttit said the plan to subsidize a private road to the Ring of Fire mineral development area that is not accessible by area First Nations and the general public is “totally wrong.”
“That cannot be allowed to happen and we will make sure as a political organization that we pressure the government and industry that any transportation corridor that is going to go into the Ring of Fire development will have to have open access to the communities,” Louttit said. “It will be going close by Aroland, Eabametoong, Neskantaga, Marten Falls and Webequie. It doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make moral sense and it’s just not going to happen that way.”

Louttit also described the NAN housing and infrastructure project during the assembly.
“We’re going into the second phase of the project, which is the feasibility and business plan phase for a NAN housing and infrastructure for-profit corporation,” Louttit said. “It is a business model in which we will attempt to accelerate the housing and infrastructure in the communities and leverage private sector financing, banking and all government loans or subsidies that are available to reinvest back into the corporation to build more houses, to renovate more houses and to put in more infrastructure in the communities.”

Louttit said there is currently an estimated backlog of 5,000 homes needed across NAN territory based on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website data.
“Five-thousand (housing units) using Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation costing model is equivalent to about $1.2 billion,” Louttit said. “That excludes infrastructure such as roads, hydro, water and sewer, which is another $2 billion when you add that on.”

Louttit said many of the communities are also running out of subdivision space to build new homes on.

“Once we get the (NAN housing and infrastructure for-profit corporation) start up rolling,
then we are going to engage some professional planners and engineers and architects to determine the exact requirements for the capacity of each community to build,” Louttit said.
Louttit said the housing conditions in some communities are “terrible.”

“This should not be happening in this day and age,” Louttit said. “We all know the situation on (housing) in Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat exists in every NAN community — overcrowding, poor construction, poor land, materials below standard.”

Louttit said there is a need to upgrade all the standards, to do proper construction methods, to have good project management and to have good planning.

“A lot of communities in northern Canada have really nice homes, and that’s possible in the NAN territory,” Louttit said. “I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

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