Crisis at Cat Lake reserve

Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan says he will visit a northern Ontario First Nation to see its housing situation at the request of the community's chief.

O'Regan spoke to the chief of Cat Lake First Nation Friday and the two agreed on a plan that includes speeding up the delivery of materials to complete a seven-unit housing complex, for other repairs, and for new construction.

His department also says the plan includes a commitment to ensure a winter road is maintained regularly to maintain access to the remote community for as long as possible this season.

Cat Lake is about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Before going to the community, O'Regan says he will take up a request from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde to meet in Thunder Bay with Cat Lake's chief.

Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus recently went to the community with provincial legislator Sol Mamakwa. Angus said what they witnessed was a total breakdown of public health, with families living amid toxic levels of mould.

He also says they saw children living with chronic medical conditions like bronchitis, rashes and pneumonia.

O'Regan says he will remain in close contact with the chief, adding it will be good to see the conditions in the community first-hand during his upcoming visit.

"We both agreed I should head up to Cat Lake when we've got some definite progress happening on the ground that he and I can look at together and if we need to tweak it to make sure it meets the needs of the community, then we can do that," he said in an interview.

He also says his department will support an independent community medical assessment of health issues, if the chief and council wish to have one.

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