Heavy snow forces early evacuation of Kashechewan
Published Tuesday, April 16, 2019 9:51AM EDT Last Updated Monday, April 29, 2019 3:08PM EDT
Hundreds of people from Kashechewan First Nation, on the James Bay Coast are being flown to safety again this spring.
And the northeastern Ontario communities of Timmins and Kapuskasing are taking in a large portion of the evacuees.
Almost a week ahead of schedule, evacuees from Kashechewan began to arrive in Timmins via plane on Monday, April 15.
More than 700 are expected in Timmins over the next few days, while hundreds more will be sent to Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, and Cornwall.
Leo Friday is the chief of Kashechewan First Nation and says the first wave of evacuees include people that need medical care.
“We're trying to get the people out to Timmins first, for those people that their loved ones are very sick. That's where all these sick people are right now.” said Friday.
Dave Plourde is the mayor of Kapuskasing and says the community welcomes the evacuees with open arms.
“These are our neighbours but we consider them family. And it really is a regional effort that's put together to help out people in need.” said Plourde.
Annual flooding has yet to begin in remote community, but authorities fear this year's conditions could lead to catastrophic floods.
Officials in Timmins are calling for a more permanent solution.
“This was part of Justin Trudeau's promise to a new relationship that the people of Kashechewan would finally get to move towards safe ground and there's nothing for them. Words will not move this community.” said Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus.
Officials from the host cities recognize that uprooting their lives year after year is not easy for the people of Kasheschewan.
“It isn't the solution that any of the individuals that are affected by this would wish. It's obviously very trying circumstances for the old, young, and sick, and to think this is happening on an annual basis is a bit of a travesty.” said Timmins Mayor George Pirie.
The first evacuees are being brought to the Ramada Inn in Timmins and others will go to the Senator Hotel. The federal government will put them up until the threat of flooding subsides. Authorities are unsure of just how long that will be.
‘You never know, year-in, year-out, whether the ice is going to jam and how quickly that water will rise.” said Angus.