The Okanagan Indian Band is rallying behind a troubled community in northern Ontario.
Instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, band employees will send donations to the Attawapiskat First Nation, which has declared a housing crisis and is in need of winter clothes, insulated sleeping mats, blankets, heaters and generators.
“If you were to ask a child or a mother of the Attawapiskat First Nation what they wanted for this coming Christmas, presents and toys may not be the top priority as they are in a state of emergency due to deplorable conditions such as lack of running water, inadequate shelter, heat and proper sewage disposals,” said Sherry Louis, executive secretary to the Okanagan Indian Band chief and council.
“Many families are currently living in less than Third World living conditions, overcrowding in temporary homes or tents.”
Staff decided to support Red Cross relief efforts after hearing about the plight of the James Bay community of 2,000 people.
“Gift giving is a customary tradition practiced by many but not all of the population can afford simple luxury in today’s economy,” said Sharmaine Gregoire, administrative assistant to the executive director.
OKIB fundraising results will be posted at www.okib.ca and www.syilx.org.
“In addition, we are challenging other First Nations and affiliated organizations to meet or beat our challenge by Dec. 22,” said Glenda Louis, education administrative assistant.
Financial donations for Attawapiskat can be made online at www.redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through the local Canadian Red Cross office.
Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked Attawapiskat, and they can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Court, Mississauga, Ont., L5R 3E9.