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Solidarity: From Occupy Toronto to Attawapiskat -- you can help

Photo: John Bonnar, http://johnb.smugmug.com

The First Nation community of Attawapiskat is in dire need of housing supplies to help repair their existing homes. OPSEU is part of Design Points North, a group heading up to Attawapiskat on Saturday, February 4 with a transport truck to deliver a Mongolian yurt -- the same yurt that stood in St. James Park during Occupy Toronto. There is room on the truck and they need your help to fill it up with useful items requested by the band. You can make a donation here.  Follow this space on rabble.ca over the next week as Laurie Miller travels to Attawapiskat by truck.

Design Points North is a new organization made up of a diverse group of individuals, representing business, labour and the Chiefs of Ontario. It is a multi-faceted attempt to improve conditions in Attawapiskat through sustainable and community-oriented projects and initiatives. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has welcomed the Design Points North initiative into the community.

Chief Spence declared a state of emergency for her community last December. At the time there were five families living in non-insulated tents, 19 families living in makeshift sheds without water or electricity, 87 buildings fit for condemnation that house 128 families, and 35 families living in houses that need serious repair.

Attawapiskat is located along the west side of the James Bay coast. The community is only accessible by road during the winter freeze up. The truck delivering the yurt to Attawapiskat will travel 700 kilometers to Cochrane from Toronto, where it will board a freight train to Moosenee. The truck will be driven another 300 kilometers on the seasonal ice road. It is no wonder six apples and four small bottles of juice cost $23.50 in this remote community.

Design Points North is looking for cash donations to purchase supplies the community has requested like: lumber, hot water tanks, exterior doors, chimney sets, insulation and other useful items.

Who and what is Design Points North?

The northern First Nations community of Attawapiskat currently faces a funding and housing crisis. Design Points North believes that by working in tandem with the community to design local solutions to local issues, we can start to confront and eliminate the challenges posed by traditional 'obstacles' such as remoteness and climate. Design thinking allows us to see these features as strengths and attributes, and opens a path to a rich and sustainable future for northern communities.

Design Points North is a multi-faceted attempt to help improve conditions and quality of life in Attawapiskat and northern communities through sustainable and community-oriented projects and initiatives. The aim is to combine rich First Nations heritage with state-of-the art ideas and technologies to design solutions that recognize and complement traditional ways of life.

Design Points North is being developed and coordinated by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and Tim Gilbert, principal and founding partner of Gilbert's LLP and Chair of the Design Exchange, and is proceeding with the blessing of the Attawapiskat First Nation Chief and Council and the Chiefs of Ontario.

About the yurt and this first trip

The Mongolian yurt will be providing Attawapiskat with a new community art centre, thanks to the support of seven unions: OPSEU, ETFO, CEP, ONA, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, SEIU, and USWA-District 6. It will be equipped with games, art supplies, sewing machines and sewing supplies; and furnishings, identified as needs by the Council. Yves Ballengger of Groovy Yurts is managing the logistics of transporting, winterizing, customizing and installing the community centre yurt.

Toronto Harbord Room Chef Cory Vitiello, will be joining this first trip, and will help create a community feast for hundreds of locals. Also participating is dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, who, in addition to providing direct care, will help assess the further medical needs of the community. Also among the members of the Design Points North is architect Andy Thomson, who will lead an exploratory workshop and demonstration, designing solutions for northern communities directly with members of those communities. Andy's plan is to begin by demonstrating the feasibility and desirability of custom solutions, and eventually to design and build them by working side-by-side with the people of Attawapiskat, with the aim of producing a sustainable northern industry.

For more on the project click here and to add your support to covering the cost for the truckload of supplies, click here.

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