Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chief welcomes homes, not third-party manager

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OTTAWA -- Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence says her community appreciates the federal government's decision to send more modular homes to the isolated Northern Ontario reserve. But she insists she will not co-operate with a third-party manager appointed by the Harper government to review the band's finances.

Her comments followed a statement by John Duncan, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who said Sunday Ottawa has purchased an additional seven homes on top of the 15 previously announced, to help the community deal with a housing crisis.

The minister's statement, however, stated matter-of-factly that "Chief Spence has acknowledged the necessity of working with our government, the third-party management team, and Emergency Management Ontario to get help to the residents of Attawapiskat."

"This statement is completely false and untrue and the minister has been misinformed," Spence said in a statement issued late Sunday.

Spence said she got a call from Duncan's aid on Sunday morning informing her of the minister's expected announcement. "I informed the aide that third-party management is not to be part of the announcement. I requested that a copy of the release be emailed to me to verify our conversation."

A call from a reporter asking her to comment on Duncan's statement arrived before the email she had requested from the minister's office.

"I appreciate and my members appreciate the assistance being provided for renovations, trailers and expertise," wrote Spence.

"I will not accept our First Nation to operate under third-party management, nor will I pay for them out of our band support allocation."

Ottawa's latest offer also included renovations to the community's healing centre so it could temporarily house vulnerable residents until the new homes arrive.

An official with the minister's office said they hoped winter roads would freeze so that the shipment of the homes can start in January.

Duncan also said wood stoves, composting toilets and other supplies were flown into the community Saturday.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2011 A8

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