Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Pikangikum First Nation today.
He was joined by Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, as well as Kenora MP Bob Nault. They were hosted by the First Nation's chief and council and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
Together, they discussed pressing social, infrastructure, and economic issues that have a unique impact on remote Indigenous communities.
“It is an honour to meet again with members of Pikangikum First Nation. Our government will continue to partner with Indigenous Peoples to find long-term, sustainable solutions that make a real difference in their lives and in communities across Canada,” said the prime minister in a prepared statement.
Housing remains a key concern. Dean Owen of Pikangikum First Nation says the backlog was 300 homes in 2005, and it's now around 600. Owen says 10 people often share one of the reserve's existing homes and are forced to sleep in shifts.
A health unit study in 2006 found many of the homes also lacked water and sewer, in part due to the lack of electricity.
Regional Chief Isadore Day noted the community is in dire need of housing, as well as a hydro transmission line to provide power for the community.
"Today’s visit by the prime minister to Pikangikum First Nation is the fulfillment of a commitment he made shortly after the 2015 election, following a series of suicides by young people. In some respects, Pikangikum is ground zero in terms of poor health determinants – a lack of housing, clean water, and reliable electricity. In fact, Minister Carolyn Bennett stated at last July’s AFN (Assembly of First Nations) Annual General Assembly that any new housing for Pikangikum would not happen, until the community is connected to a power grid," the regional chief said, in a prepared statement.
During winter storms, many Canadians are forced from their homes as they deal with a lack of power, water or food. The regional chief noted the lack of electricity, food and clean water is a daily occurence for many First Nation residents.
Funding for a transmission line was promised last August. The First Nation is also looking for ways to improve fire protection and prevention, after nine members died in a fire last year.
It's the third visit to the riding by the prime minister. He also visited Kenora last July, as well as Shoal Lake 40 in April of 2016.
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