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Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Quilt for Attawapiskat

Well, the First Nations community of Attawapiskat has suffered yet another blow. On the CBC, they reminded us of how, two years ago, the sewage system suffered a fatal breakdown, and the response was to install temporary housing for the families there.

Two years in temporary housing. Well, to some people that doesn't seem like such a bad thing. But have you looked at a map? We're talking just about Arctic here.

Families. That means old women and children. Babies.

One working toilet for 80 people. One working kitchen for 80 people.

I would hate to share my bathroom with 80 people. And I can barely tolerate my Boyfriend helping me in the kitchen, much less having 80 people trying to get meals going.

I'd be discouraged. Wouldn't you?

Then two months ago the power went off. Did Ontario Hydro rush to the scene? I mean, this is sub-Arctic climate here. Was it an emergency that all these people had no power?

Apparently not.

When we had the Ice Storm here, people started using fireplaces, Coleman stoves, candles, anything they could to stay warm.

And of course, that's what the people of Attawapiskat had to do.

Here, we had people burn their homes down in trying to keep warm. And two weeks ago, that's what happened in Attawapiskat.

Of course it happened. 

Now, I'm not a historian or a specialist in Aboriginal affairs. I can't begin to guess at how this situation got the way it has. I'm sure of one thing - there has been bad faith, mismanagement, lack of understanding and lack of trust, maybe on both "sides," more likely on "ours."

But I am a mother, a daughter, and a quilter. And I'm 56 years old. I've had experiences that have taught me that a little compassion goes a long way. That nobody gets up, yawns and stretches in the morning, looks in the mirror and says "Today, I think I'll become a statistic."

I've learned that life throws us curves. That some of us are luckier than others. We got born into a relatively affluent society, on the right side of the color-and-creed barriers.

And others weren't so lucky. The cynics would say "So what, that's life, it sucks to be you."

I'm pretty sure that if any of us had to live in these kind of conditions, we'd squawk. I'm also pretty sure that if the power went out here, they'd be working hard to get it back on.

Because. We. "Count."

Well, I could go on about this forever, but in the interests of getting to the point, I'm going to send a quilt to one of the persons who has been displaced by the fire.

It's nothing. It's a drop in a sea. It will actually be a large investment of my time and will take determination to see that it ends up keeping somebody warm, because I don't actually know anybody from Attawapiskat.

I'm well-placed in my job to have some contacts, and earlier this week I met with two Aboriginal women to discuss the way I could somehow get a quilt to one of these displaced persons. I'd like the label I will put on it to eventually read "You are not alone." Or "you are not forgotten." Or something like that. But that's even harder to figure out, because then not only does someone have to point the way to a displaced person, it means finding someone who speaks their language and can write the syllabics for me to embroider or appliqué onto the quilt.

One step at a time. If all I can do is send one person a quilt that will keep them warm, that's one thing I can do.

So, has anybody had experience with wool batting? I have a feeling it's warmer than cotton, but I wonder about shrinkage.

All kind comments are appreciated.

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