Kashechewan First Nation
The Kashechewan First Nation (//) is a Cree First Nation located near James Bay in Northern Ontario, Canada. The community is located on the northern shore of the Albany River. Kashechewan First Nation is one of two communities that were established from Old Fort Albany in the 1950s. The other community is Fort Albany First Nation, which is now located on the southern bank of the Albany River. The community is connected to other towns along the shore of James Bay by the seasonal ice road/winter road, linking it to the towns of Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, and Moosonee.
Kashechewan is policed by the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, an Aboriginal-based service. A fire at the detachment on January 9, 2006, severely injured an officer and killed two inmates as they could not be rescued.
When the community of Kashechewan came into being, the new residents chose the name "Keeshechewan". (This has the meaning, in Cree, of "where the water flows fast".) However, when the sign for the new post office arrived, it had the misspelling "Kashechewan", and this became the official name of the community. This official name has no real meaning in the Cree language.
Kashechewan First Nation is a member community of the Mushkegowuk Council, along with seven other First Nations in Northern Ontario. The community and Mushkegowuk Council are represented by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). NAN is a political territorial organization that represents the 49 First Nations that are part of the Treaty No. 9 area in Northern Ontario. At the provincial level, the community, tribal council and political territorial organization participate in a province-wide coordinating body, the Chiefs of Ontario. The Assembly of First Nations represents the community along with other First Nations organizations and councils, as well as over 600 First Nations across Canada.
As of 2012, the elected leaders of the First Nation include Chief Derek Stephen and Deputy Chief Amos Wesley. The community's leadership consists of a chief, a deputy chief and 12 councillors plus one elder, a men's representative, a women's representative and male and female youth representatives. Local elections are held every three years, last in August 2012.
St. Andrew’s Elementary School and Francine J. Wesley Secondary School are the only schools located within Kashechwan.
Kashechewan Health Services provides basic medical services.
Northern Store is the only retail store offering food and other consumer goods in town. The store is the largest building in town. Northern Store also has a location in Fort Albany to the south else foods need to be flown in by air. A helipad next to the store is used by Ornge for medical transfers out of Kashechewan from the Kashechewan Nursing Station (Weeneebayko Area Health Authority).
There is a hockey arena, Kashechewan Community Arena, that serves as the recreation centre for residents. There is a sports field outside of the arena that can support baseball, football and soccer during the summer months. Inside the arena is a community hall and gymnasium.
St Paul's Anglican Church is only religious centre in town and attached to the Anglican Diocese of Moosonee.
Roads in town do not connect beyond Kashechewan. There are winter roads created to provide contractor access to town. Besides cars, skidoos provides means to travel in town.
Kashechewan Airport and travel by boat are the only means to travel outside of Kashechewan. Riverside Drive is the main road running along the shores of the Albany River. There are smaller side streets:
- Wa We Yas Ton Crescent
Homes are mainly single floor fabricated houses or trailer homes.
A water treatment plant is found along the Mekopaymuko Channel near the Albany River. A dike along the north shore of the Albany River provides limited flood control hence Kashechewan is prone to flooding.
In late October and early November 2005, over 800 members of the First Nation were evacuated after E. coli bacteria were discovered in their water supply system. The First Nation had been under a boil-water advisory for two years. The drinking water was supplied by a relatively new treatment plant built in March 1998. The cause of the tainted water was found to be a plugged chlorine injector which was not discovered by local operators who had not been adequately trained to run the treatment plant. When officials arrived and fixed the problem, chlorine levels were around 1.7 mg/l which was blamed for chronic skin disorders such as impetigo and scabies. An investigation led by Health Canada revealed that the skin disorders were likely due to living in squalor.
In 2001, the Ontario Clean Water Agency conducted a survey, funded by the federal ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, of water systems on Indian reserves in the province. The survey identified 62 communities in the province, including Kashechewan, where severe problems affected the communities' water systems. These problems included broken treatment plant equipment, malfunctioning safety alarms, funding shortages, water sampling deficiencies and a shortage of trained water treatment plant staff. To date, little if any action has been taken on the report's recommendations.
In 2003, a report by the same agency described the situation in Kashechewan as "a Walkerton-in-waiting." Several politicians subsequently visited the First Nation, including its Member of Provincial Parliament Gilles Bisson and Member of Parliament Charlie Angus, Ontario Minister of Community Safety Monte Kwinter in April 2005 and federal New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton in the summer of 2005.
Discovery of E. coli
E. coli was discovered in the water of the First Nation as early as October 18, 2005, sparking widespread coverage by the media in Canada of the situation. The news of contaminated water was first published by the Timmins Daily Press. Following this, the first announcement regarding possible evacuation of the community came from the federal Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, who announced on October 24 that after evaluating the situation, the community would not be evacuated.
The next day, October 25, the Government of Ontario announced that it would evacuate all people of Kashechewan requiring medical attention. This was estimated to be roughly 60% of the community's 1,900 members, who would travel to Timmins, Cochrane, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Capreol and other Northern Ontario communities for medical aid. Some of these evacuees included children diagnosed with scabies and impetigo.
On October 25, the federal government confirmed that "water samples taken between October 17, 2005, and October 19, 2005, indicated no E. coli or coliform bacteria present in the community’s water supply." On October 27, the government confirmed that it would invest money in relocating the community to higher and safer ground in the area, including the construction of a water treatment plant. On October 30, a temporary portable water filtration system, capable of producing 50,000 litres per day of clean, drinkable water through reverse osmosis, was transported to the community.
On November 5, the federal government published its findings. According to the report, "recent test results of water samples show no E. coli, no total coliform bacteria and maximum chlorine levels that fall within provincial standards. This means the plant is producing safe water."
The community has suffered regularly since 2004 from flooding and water contamination when ice melts on the Albany River. Members of the community were evacuated for four consecutive years between 2012 and 2015.
In January 2007, 21 young people in Kashechewan — including one nine-year-old — attempted to commit suicide. On February 7, MP Charlie Angus (NDP—Timmins-James Bay) spoke in the Canadian House of Commons about the crisis, calling on the government to deal with the crisis and to increase education funding to help improve special education and crisis counselling services in First Nations' schools.
Studies have estimated that the suicide rate among Canadian First Nations is five to six times higher than among non-aboriginal Canadians.
On November 9, 2006, a report by a former Member of Provincial Parliament, Alan Pope, recommended a number of possible solutions to the ongoing Kashechewan crisis, including upgrading the current site, moving the community to a new site, and moving the residents to the existing communities of Fort Albany, Smooth Rock Falls or Timmins. Pope, a resident of Timmins, recommended the Timmins option.
On July 30, 2007, the government of Canada signed a memorandum of agreement and understanding with the community, giving the Kashechewan First Nation reserve a grant of $200 million to improve and repair infrastructure, housing and flood-control services in the existing community.
- "Ontario Regional Chief challenges federal and provincial governments to respond to the First Nation policing funding crisis", CNW Group (February 4, 2008) Retrieved February 18, 2008.
- "Concerns over water on reserve ignored for years", CTV News, October 27, 2005.
- "Ont. reserve decries First Nations water crisis". CTV News, October 21, 2005.
- 940 Montreal
- wawatay.on.ca ::
- globeandmail.com: National
- Kashechewan Update, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
- "Cheers greet news that reserve will be moved", cbc.ca, October 28, 2005.
- Progress on Kashechewan Action Plan, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.]
- "Anxiety deepens as floods force another Kashechewan evacuation". CBC. 28 Apr 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- "Kashechewan chief relieved as 388 more people evacuated from remote Ontario First Nation on Saturday". National Post. Canadian Press. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- TheStar.com | News | Kashechewan a 'community in crisis'
- Suicide among Canada's First Nation population
- Alan Pope, "Report on the Kashechewan First Nation and its People", October 31, 2006.
- globeandmail.com: Report urges moving Kashechewan to Timmins
- Canada's New Government signs agreement with Kashechewan First Nation to redevelop community - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
- Memorandum of Agreement and Understanding Between Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Health ('Canada') and the Kashechewan First Nation - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
- Richard Brennan, "Ottawa to rebuild troubled reserve". Toronto Star, July 30, 2007.
- Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's First Nation profile
- Google Map of Kashechewan water system, including sewage effluent outflow and water intake