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New Democrats call for military to aid northern Ontario reserve in crisis

The federal New Democrats are calling on the Harper government to send the military into a northern Ontario reserve facing a housing crisis.

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel says getting winter supplies to Attawapiskat won’t be easy, and military support is needed, given the extreme weather and lack of a road into the community.

“Moving supplies into this community to alleviate the housing crisis will require an extraordinary level of co-ordination,” Turmel wrote in a letter Wednesday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the winter road will not be ready for nearly two months, the community is seeking co-ordinated logistical help. For this reason, they have asked me to convey that they are asking for military support to help in the response.”

Leaders of the Attawapiskat First Nation are asking the United Nations to intervene.

They say the UN could force Harper to explain to the world why his government isn’t living up to obligations to respect aboriginal people.

Ottawa has removed the band’s power over its own finances but on Monday band members told a government-appointed manager to leave the reserve.

The Attawapiskat First Nation asked the federal government nearly a month ago to recognize a state of emergency in their community.

Turmel says the crisis is no different from others that Canada has faced where the military was sent in.

“Our military has played an incredible role at times of other humanitarian crises in Canada. I am sure that you will agree that the conditions facing people in Attawapiskat are dire and likely to get worse as the winter sets in,” Turmel said in her letter to Harper.

“I am asking you today to act immediately and target resources, including military resources as requested by the community, towards building adequate housing in Attawapiskat.”