LAC LA BICHE - Although the decision to remove a 'tent city' from a wooded area on private land near the Lac La Biche downtown has been halted, and discussions are ongoing to find solutions,nothing has changed for the nine people a local advocate says are staying there.
Lisa Marie Bourque, a representative of the New Dawn Metis Women's Society, says nothing has changed and nothing has been done fo the occupants of the camp that sits on private property in a wooded area near the downtown Lac La Biche railyard.
Going into the Easter weekend, the camp is still there, and Bourque says the encampment occupants are still being fed, and being brought supplies and clothing by local groups and individuals.
Plans going forward
The long-term plan for homelessness, vagrancy, drug, alcohol, and mental health issues is part of the mandate for the new Transitional Housing Committee in the community. Area stakeholders on the new committee have just begun discussions on the issue, with some initial strategies expected in the coming weeks.
Bourque believes this process is taking too long and people are being left out in the cold — literally, as the area experienced a late winter storm with snow and freezing temperatures just days after county councillors reversed a decision to take down the camp. Bourque feels more needs to be done by different levels of government.
“If it goes nowhere. Then we will proceed to higher levels of Government,” Bourque said.
While the race or cultural heritage of anyone staying at the camp hasn't been addressed specifically or directly, Bourque believes the first step should be a consultation with the Indigenous elected leaders of the area.
“They are the ones who will know how to work with their people,” Bourque said, explaining that the current occupants of the encampment are content. “At this point, it is their only stable structure in their lives at this point."
She believes that the first step to getting these people out of the cold is the consultation work and the protocol of leaders, so they can work on the betterment of the community together and give these people the support they need and a place to live.
“We need to work together,” Bourque said.
Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi was contacted by the POST for comment, but hadn't responded by the editorial deadline.
Any updates on this story can be found at www.lakelandtoday.ca