Leaders of Kashechewan are demanding their troubled community be moved to a site within their traditional lands. The demand comes as they rejected a federal offer to relocate to Timmins, Ontario, which is 450 kilometres away.

They fear that with spring break-up coming, the community could be evacuated again, or worse, lives could be lost.

“I hope that the people of Canada will understand the situation we are in. We need to have the assurance of this government, which made the commitment in 2005 to find a solution for the future of Kashechewan,” said Grand Chief Stan Louttit at a press conference March 28.

The community suggested various options for the move. The most popular, and the one that Louttit is backing, is a move within their traditional lands, mere kilometres away from the current community.

The upheaval has come with heavy costs. Several residents have been lost to suicide over the last three years. It’s believed many others in the community are still prone to suicide because of the horrible conditions caused by last year’s flooding and an outbreak of E. Coli in the drinking water. Elementary school children have been indefinitely moved to the local high school due to water damage. The community has been evacuated three times in the past two-and-a-half years.

The Conservative government favoured the move to Timmins and is displeased with the community’s choice to stay in its traditional territory. The “lories claim that the Liberals never set aside the money to facilitate a local move of 50 houses a year for 10 years and that Timmins is a better locale.

“It’s not where the community wants to live,” said Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus (NDP). “They’re very land-based, they’re very traditional, and this is where they’ve always lived. You can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on a septic wound.”