The youngest and oldest people in the remote northern Ontario community of Kashechewan will be moved out of the area starting today amid concerns about flooding.
An evacuation was initially planned for next Monday, but officials have decided to start the effort earlier because of concerns about damage to a dike.
The First Nation community has a population of more than 1,900 residents.
Kashechewan Chief Derek Stephen told The Daily Press that this first stage will see 600 residents seek refuge in a number of communities in the district including Kapuskasing, Hearst and Smooth Rock Falls.
Stephen said this is largely a precautionary measure.
Initially, Stage 1 Evacuations were going to be carried out on April 27.
However, the uncertain nature of the Albany River, combined with the concerns about the sustainability of the dike, and the possibility of the river flooding the town at any time has led to the evacuation process being moved up.
This is the fourth straight year that the community has had to be evacuated.
Stephen said after the Stage 1 Evacuations are completed, most of the remaining residents will be asked to evacuate.
He said about 20 community members will remain behind to monitor facilities and to take whatever measures they can to protect the community’s infrastructure.
Looking ahead, Stephen said he wants to meet with representatives from the federal Aboriginal Affairs ministry to discuss an ultimate solution.
Aside from repairing the dike, one of the options which Stephen is in support of is relocating the community.
The chief said they have identified a preferred site located northwest of Kashechewan, which is on the river but on higher ground.
Stephen said the community is ready and willing to make that move.