Federal, provincial governments to sign action plan for Kashechewan's future

Federal, provincial governments to sign action plan for Kashechewan's future

Federal and provincial Indigenous affairs ministers are expected to visit the remote James Bay First Nation of Kashechewan, Ont., on Friday to sign a new framework agreement on the community's future. 

Chief Leo Friday told CBC News he hopes the meeting will result in a financial commitment towards the reserve's relocation to higher ground. 

"If they want to continue spending $20 million on flood evacuations, I think you're crazy," Friday said.

"Why not build houses for $20 million every year?"

Band-Aid solutions 'not enough'

The cost of moving the First Nation to a location selected about 20 kilometres away is pegged between $500 million and $1 billion, according to Friday. 

He said it would be money well spent, considering how much it costs to fly people away from the rising waters of the Albany River during spring flooding. 

"We've been receiving some Band-Aid solutions," Friday said.

"Not enough to make things workable. Just barely."

Eighty-nine per cent of the First Nation voted in favour of relocation during a referendum held last year.

The outcome is expected to be top of mind for Friday when he meets with a group of delegates visiting his community, including federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Ontario's Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation David Zimmer and leaders of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

'See a path forward'

"I think all of Canada knows that this community has been through way too much," Bennett said ahead of Friday's meeting.

"It's a hugely important day for, finally, the community to come home, there will be housing and they can see a path forward."

The group of delegates is expected to come up with an action plan to address the First Nation's short, medium and long-term needs.

Friday said he hopes the agreement will improve life for his members and unite people who have been separated by the evacuations to Kapuskasing and Timmins, Ont.

"It is hard for our elders, our young people and our babies," Friday said. 

"If there's a safer place here in the community, they'll all come back."