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Attawapiskat: Duncan says Spence accepts third-party management; Spence says "it's a lie"

In an unusual Sunday-morning news release, Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan said Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence had accepted third-party management for her reserves. But Spence, in a letter read to Duncan on CTV Question Period, called that a lie.

The ministry release quoted Duncan as saying that seven additional modular houses, for a total of 22, are now earmarked for the reserve:

"As a result of the direct and ongoing cooperation between our Government, Emergency Management Ontario, the Canadian Red Cross and the community, I can confirm today that high efficiency wood stoves, composting toilets, plastic sheeting and other supplies have been delivered yesterday to the community by air.

"These urgent supplies come as we move towards the delivery of modular homes in the winter months. Our government has purchased a total of 22 modular units for the community, including seven additional units requested by residents.

"Chief Spence also accepted our Government's proposed retrofit of the community Healing Lodge. Efforts are underway for the necessary retrofit of the facility to provide temporary, warm shelter for residents until permanent housing arrives.

"I am pleased that Chief Spence has acknowledged the necessity of working with our Government, the third party management team, and Emergency Management Ontario to get help to the residents of Attawapiskat."

However, when Duncan appeared this morning on CTV's Question Period, Craig Oliver read him an excerpt from a letter from Chief Spence in which she said "it's a lie" that she accepts third-party management.

Duncan did not respond directly to her statement, but repeated that the third-party manager is in place and at work.

He also mentioned that he had been his party's aboriginal affairs critic in 1994, and had been familiar with aboriginal issues over the past 18 years. Political observer Gina Cosentino then tweeted:

Aboriginal Affairs Min Duncan said on @ctvqp he was Ab Aff CRITIC in '94, had 18yr involvemnt w this file. YET just heard abt #Attawapiskat?

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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