Evacuation due to flood fears underway in remote Ontario First Nation

Evacuation underway in Ontario First Nation

An evacuation due to flooding fears was underway Monday at a remote First Nation community in northern Ontario.

Kashechewan First Nation Deputy Chief Hosea Wesley said more than 300 people from his community flew to Kapuskasing, Ont., on Sunday and about 200 residents were expected to leave over the course of Monday and Tuesday as major ice jams about 20 kilometres upriver threaten to flood the community near the mouth of James Bay.

Children, the elderly and the sick are being evacuated first as a precautionary measure, Wesley said, noting that the exodus has become an annual voyage for the community that sits on the Albany River.

“Our people are really tired of these evacuations and flooding, especially the children,” Wesley told The Canadian Press from Kashechewan.

“They cannot really study in school when this happens every year. We really, really need to move the community to higher ground, but we’re waiting for help from the governments.”

Local officials in consultation with the province will monitor the ice as open water moves towards the reserve where more than 2,000 people live.

Flooding occurs when the ice jams, which causes water levels to rise and puts pressure on the dike wall next to Kashechewan, Wesley said. High water can simply spill over the top of the dike.

Area MP Charlie Angus echoed Wesley’s desire to move the community.

“Their dike wall, despite the millions the government spent on it, cannot be made safe,” he said. “The risk factors too high if something goes wrong.”

Angus was referring to a 2015 engineering assessment that concluded the condition of the protective ring dike posed an “intolerable” risk to the community and was susceptible to a sudden rise in water levels.

In late March, Kashechewan First Nation and Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents the interests of multiple northern Ontario First Nations, signed an agreement with the province and the federal government to “support a sustainable future” for the northern community. 

In a statement at the time, the federal government said the agreement will “focus on improving outcomes in priority areas including housing, socio-economic sustainability, health programs and facilities, infrastructure development, and schools and community facilities.”

That includes exploring options for relocation of the entire community.

Angus said without any financial commitment from the federal government, there’s no way the community will be moving in the near future.

“We’ve spent millions of dollars on the dike wall, we’ve spent millions of dollars in evacuation, spent millions of dollars dealing with the damaged infrastructure from flooding year after year and the community is still at risk,” Angus said.

“This is no future for the people of Kashechewan, they deserve better, they deserve a safe community on safe ground, so let’s get down to it and get to work.”

The evacuees’ spirits remain high given the circumstances, said Gerry Demeules, who is the evacuation co-ordinator with the Town of Kapuskasing, where hundreds have been put up in motels.

“We’ve been doing this for 12 years now so we’ve sort of got the hang of it,” Demeules said. “No issues so far.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Education minister blasts Chilliwack school trustee on gender issues

Fleming calls Neufeld’s behaviour ‘shameful’ and ‘unacceptable’

Chilliwack firefighters issue warning over heat lamp use after barn fire

Being used to keep piglets warm; extinguished by homeowners

Chilliwack slugger signs with Sacramento State Hornets

Chilliwack Minor Baseball grad Dylan Ohlsen is taking his big bat to the NCAA ranks

Unity Christian wins Fraser Valley volleyball title

Kirsten Kampman helped the Flames make history with a straight-sets win over White Rock Christian.

Hospice holding community memorial celebration

Annual celebration in Chilliwack a chance to grieve, accept loss

VIDEO: Chilliwack’s first independent film festival

Films from around B.C. and the world were screened in Chilliwack at the inaugural festival.

VIDEO: ‘She is a tough cookie,’ says husband of found Coquitlam dog walker

Annette Poitras found alive in the woods on Wednesday morning

BC Transit buses to get safety door for drivers

These new full-length doors will be tested in Victoria, Kelowna and Abbotsford

Lower Mainland teen seeks funding for $750,000 drug Soliris

Paul Chung is hopeful that, like Shantee Anaquod, he will be approved for costly aHUS treatment

‘Fresh eyes’ looking into three missing Cowichan Tribes men

First Nations want answers to their disappearances

Pedestrian hit moments after receiving safety reflector from police

The Vancouver Island man was treated for minor injuries by police at the scene

FortisBC LNG site exports first shipment of gas to China

The shipment is part of a pilot project that could see more exports in the future.

BC RCMP hunt for white SUV that rammed cruiser

Kamloops RCMP are looking for a white SUV headed north on the Yellowhead Highway

B.C. to reimburse methadone patients for taking clinic fees off welfare cheques

Provincial government agrees to pay back more than $5.5 million in deducted fees

Most Read