O'Regan says Cat Lake housing money will not be spent on consultant fee - InfoNews

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O'Regan says Cat Lake housing money will not be spent on consultant fee

Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Indigenous Services minister Seamus O'Regan says the government is "deeply disturbed" by a report that a consultant working for Cat Lake First Nation is demanding more than $1 million fee for helping negotiate the band's recent housing agreement with Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
April 05, 2019 - 1:39 PM

OTTAWA - Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan says the government is "deeply disturbed" by a report that a consultant working for Cat Lake First Nation is demanding a fee of more than $1 million for helping negotiate the band's recent housing agreement with Ottawa.

O'Regan says every penny of the $12.8 million Ottawa promised last month to rebuild mould-infested housing in the community will go to housing.

"Housing money will go to housing," O'Regan said in question period Friday morning. "It is as simple as that. Housing money goes to housing."

Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, the NDP's Indigenous-affairs critic, raised the issue, saying Canadians were shocked by the horrific conditions on the reserve and there was hope the funding agreed to in March was a "new beginning" for the families that live there.

"Will the minister explain the steps the government will take to ensure that those funds go to help the people and not to make some outside consultant a millionaire?" Angus asked.

In the last week reports have said a consultant signed a contract with Cat Lake in 2017 that pledged 10 per cent of any new money the community received, including federal grants. The consultant wasn't getting any guaranteed payments for his work other than expenses, including costs to fly to and from the remote community.

The consultant wants his 10-per-cent cut of the $12.8 million, which mean a $1.28-million payment. The Canadian Press could not reach him Friday.

Cat Lake is a remote community of about 450 people, without year-round road access, about 180 km north of Sioux Lookout, Ont. The chief and council declared a housing emergency in January, saying most of the reserve's homes were dangerous for people to live in because of mould.

They cited severe lung and skin conditions in as many as 100 children as evidence of the harm from the mould, blaming the housing conditions on years of funding shortfalls from Ottawa.

The $12.8 million was designated to build 25 new homes and prefabricated modular housing units, and to renovate 21 others.

O'Regan said his department is following up on the matter but noted the consultant was not part of the contract Cat Lake signed with Ottawa.

"It is why we signed an agreement with the community and with Windigo First Nations and no one else," he said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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