This still taken from video shows the dilapidation Attawpiskat, Ontario.
Credits: SUN NEWS NETWORK
The crisis in the northern Ontario First Nation community of Attawapiskat is just the latest example of how broken the country's approach to aboriginals is, a candidate for the leadership of the federal NDP said Friday.
Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, 49, is one of nine people vying to replace Jack Layton at the helm of the Official Opposition. He is also the first aboriginal to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal party.
As an aboriginal Canadian, Saganash said the current crisis in Attawapiskat is just the latest example of how the country's treatment of aboriginals has failed. He said the problems with housing on First Nations will be reflected in social problems such as substance abuse and violence in future aboriginal generations.
"It is a domino effect," he said."We're sitting on a social time bomb."
A rookie MP, elected as part of the Orange Wave that swept the party to second place at the polls in May, Saganash said his experiences make him uniquely qualified to lead the NDP.
After a lifetime of representing the Cree of northern Quebec, Saganash, 49, ran for federal office in the spring, handily winning the riding of Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou from the Bloc Quebecois.
In September, he joined the race to replace Jack Layton, the man who convinced Saganash to enter politics.
In a strongly worded statement issued Friday, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy said it is "shameful" that the government is trying to absolve itself from its responsibility by placing the blame for the crisis in Attawapiskat First Nation on the impoverished community's leaders.
"The dire situation in Attawapiskat First Nation is an extreme example of the health, housing and infrastructure crisis facing all First Nations, where people are forced to live in Third World conditions," Beardy said. "This is about basic human rights, jurisdiction over our homelands and the chronic underfunding from the federal government."