The troubled Kashechewan First Nation reserve should be closed and moved to Timmins, 450 kilometres to the south, a new report says.
The plan was presented on Thursday morning by Alan Pope, who outlined 50 recommendations to help solve the ongoing crisis confronting the remote Cree community on James Bay.
Mr. Pope put forward five options for the Kashechewan reserve: Make the current site livable; move across the river to Fort Albany; move to the outskirts of Timmins; move to Smooth Rock Falls, which has 100 vacant houses after the closure of its mill; and build a new community further up the Albany River.
Mr. Pope came down firmly in favour of moving the settlement to Timmins.
"I recommended that a new reserve be created for the Kashechewan First Nation on the outskirts, but within the geographic boundaries of, the city of Timmins because of the benefits it gives to the communities of Kashechewan and in particular the young people of Kashechewan," Mr. Pope said at a press conference on Thursday.
"We're talking about how to help a community that is in desperate need of help, with three evacuations in two years and all of the anxiety and unrest that comes from that, and the fear of the children and the families for more of the same."
Dangerous levels of E. coli bacteria was in the reserve's drinking water last year, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of residents and weeks of political turmoil. The reserve has been evacuated three times in 15 months because of flooding and the polluted water.
In June, the federal Conservative government sparked outrage in the reserve when it announced it could not move the community a short distance away to higher ground.
Kashechewan chief Jonathan Solomon said the community had to study the full report before coming to its own decision on what path it wanted to take.
"We aboriginal people are, our land is very important to us," Mr. Solomon said.
"Our land is our way of life. Our language is our way of life. I'm very confident that at the end of the day, my people will make a right choice in regards to moving forward on their future and their children's future."
The issues raised in the report were nothing new for James Bay Cree Grand Chief Stan Louttit, who seemed disillusioned by the lengthy process leading up to Thursday's report.
"We've been talking with the government over the years about those issues. So finally ... these are now in black and white in front of the (Indian Affairs) Minister (Jim Prentice) to confirm those things that we have been talking about for the past number of years," Mr. Louttit said.
"The issues of housing, education, economic development, social conditions. All these things, policing, fire protection, infrastructure generally. We all knew that and we've been talking with the government over the years about those issues."
The decision to relocate had to come from the community, he said. "They need to be in the driver's seat. The report will give us the basis for moving ahead and having a discussion at the community level."
Mr. Pope recommends the new reserve should be built as a stand-alone settlement within the geographic boundaries of Timmins, which lies 450 kilometres to the south.
Mr. Pope lives in Timmins, and he told CBC News that it was a "great community with a lot of growth potential", and many people from Kashechewan currently fly there for shopping or to visit their children attending Timmins high schools.
The Kashechewan people would join 7,000 people already living in reserve aboriginal populations in that municipality. The move, he said, would give the Kashewhewan people access to health and emergency services, schools, employment, home-ownership and community infrastructure and support.