The water crisis in First Nation communities needs to end

Jason Desnomie

We’re living in a dystopian world

EIC’s Note: During a week when a national investigation, coordinated through journalism departments and the Concordia Institute for Investigative Journalism, found rampant lead issues in water supplies across the country we think it’s important to print about underserved communites who have been facing this issue for decades.

When the Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario issued a state of emergency a few weeks ago regarding the state of their “drinking” water, to say I was horrified was an understatement. I was, and still am, absolutely heartbroken.

But I became even more so when I learned that, for the Neskantaga First Nation in specific, this has been a problem for them for the past 25 years.

The boil water advisory has been in place since 1995, and generations of families in these communities have grown up needing to boil water before drinking it. Grandparents have needed to watch their children and grandchildren create safe drinking water because the government refuses to do it for them. This is still happening in Canada in 2019.

The current state of emergency however, was issued when the community’s water pump broke down and began pushing unfiltered water into community taps in September. The Neskantaga then submitted an emergency evacuation request to Indigenous Services Canada which was denied. It was then that the community issued their state of emergency.

Their community holds 188 residents.

Prior to this declaration, the water, while filtered, was still unsafe for drinking. Any time anyone in their community needed water, they were required to boil it beforehand. Imagine the current state of the community with unfiltered water being brought forward to the taps in their homes.

As Canadians, we should be absolutely horrified. Reserves in our country still do not have access to clean drinking water in 2019. In the midst of all our conversations surrounding reconciliation and growth, as a country we are still refusing to give reserves a basic human right: drinking water.

I am horrified, I am embarrassed, and I am angry. And you should be too.

The passing federal election makes this an even more heart wrenching and infuriating cause. The leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, Jagmeet Singh, vowed to end the water boiling advisories in First Nation communities while he was campaigning. Singh went as far as challenging a reporter who questioned the amount of money he would be dedicating to the cause if he was elected. He said, “why is that even a question?”

I am truly horrified for the state of our country. We should not need to fight and argue for fellow Canadians to have clean drinking water. It shouldn’t be an argument. Hell, it shouldn’t even be a debate. The fact that I even need to write this article feels as though I’m living in a dystopian world.

I shouldn’t be writing this article. I shouldn’t be sharing an opinion on why people having clean drinking water is a necessity. I shouldn’t need to make a case to the people we have placed in power to protect the very people that put them there in the first place.

I shouldn’t need to be typing this, because if you need negotiation to giving people a human right, you’re the worst type of person.

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