You've seen the videos of the deplorable living conditions that spurred Chief Theresa Spence to declare a state of emergency in Attawapiskat. And you want to help. What is the best way to give?
Financial donations to the Red Cross are arguably the fastest way to make an impact. The group has already begun flying into the community with shipments of items that its staff has purchased. Its next trip is Tuesday. Other groups are collecting goods, and arranging to have them shipped to the remote James Bay reserve in the coming weeks.
The crisis may also spur donors to examine longer-term projects (such as Habitat for Humanity's Aboriginal Housing Program, which builds homes for native families across the country) and so help other communities in need. "We're hoping that, after this, we can prevent other crises from happening," says Rachael Brown, the founder of True North Aid, which has been offering humanitarian aid to various aboriginal communities since 2009.
The Canadian Red Cross accepts only monetary donations, which they use to buy items and fly them to Attawapiskat. "We're using funds to purchase supplies that we've identified the community needs urgently," says spokesperson Karen Snider, from Timmins, Ont. "That includes things such as winter clothing, heaters – but it's very specific items, so that's why it's important that we purchase the supplies."
As of Monday, they'd already collected $199,000. They're in the midst of determining exactly how much they need and will tell Canadians when they've reached that goal.
How to give: Donations can be made online at redcross.ca, or by calling 800-418-1111. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked "Attawapiskat" and can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Ct., Mississauga, Ont., L5R 3E9.
True North Aid is an Ottawa-based non-profit with experience in shipping goods and food to remote areas. They are arranging for another shipment to leave Ottawa on Dec. 13 with clothing, food and other supplies.
How to give: Items such as winter clothing for children and adults, electric heaters and non-perishable food such as flour and rice can be dropped off in three locations: in Ottawa, until Dec. 12, at the Bill Prankard Evangelistic Association (BPEA is the parent organization for True North Aid), 8A-2016 Ogilvie Rd; in Bowmanville, Ont., on Dec. 10, at Liberty Church, 1965 Martin Rd. N.; and in Toronto at Catch the Fire, 272 Attwell Dr. True North is also arranging to pick up donations from other Canadian cities.
Items can also be shipped to the Ottawa location. The group accepts PayPal donations on its website to help with shipping costs and has raised $40,000 so far. 613-863-2631; truenorthaid.ca.
1. The Guelph, Ont., charity Speroway (formerly Feed the Children Canada) works with the Toronto-based North-South Partnership for Children to collect and deliver boxed items to various native communities twice a year.
2. Aboriginal Housing Program, Habitat for Humanity Canada
While they have no current plans to build houses in Attawapiskat, the charity does work with Canadian aboriginal groups and has built 35 homes for native families since the program started in 2007. As well, Habitat is set to sign a formal partnership agreement with the Assembly of First Nations on Tuesday.
How to give: Donate online at habitat.ca or call 800-667-5137 ext. 230.