Attawapiskat crisis: Community has declared a state of emergency 5 times since 2006

The remote northern Ontario first nation of Attawapiskat has declared a state of emergency after a rash of suicide attempts was reported over the weekend. It’s not the first time the James Bay community of about 2,000 has made such a declaration.

Here are some other instances when the first nation has declared a state of emergency in the last decade:


Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency in October 2006 over the deteriorating quality of drinking water that it said was affecting the health of children and elders on the reserve. Some residents complained of rashes, dizziness and a change in the taste of the drinking water.


A state of emergency was declared in July 2011 after a number of homes were contaminated by sewage. The deputy chief at the time said a lack of housing and overcrowding in the community compounded the problem. Fifty two people, some as old as 72 and others as young as four months, were affected.

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Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency in October 2011 after a severe housing shortage forced a number of families to live in tents and unheated trailers, some without access to running water and electricity. The declaration set off lingering tensions between the first nation and the federal government, with the then ruling Conservatives questioning why the housing crisis existed given the millions provided to Attawapiskat over the years.


Flooding and sewer backups triggered a state of emergency in Attawapiskat in the spring of 2013. Heavy snowfall followed by a quick melt overwhelmed what the area MP called “sub-standard infrastructure” on the reserve. The rising sewage forced the evacuation of the only hospital in the community and patients had to be moved to facilities off-reserve. The school was also closed.