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October 29, 2020

The Ontario Federation of Labour demands action for Neskantaga First Nation peoples, who have been evacuated and left without a safe, clean water supply for the winter. The community has lived under a boil water advisory for more than 25 years.

“It is appalling that clean drinking water, a basic human right readily available to millions of settlers on Turtle Island, is a luxury for the First Nation community of Neskantaga,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates. “Shame on the government for continuing to treat First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples like second class citizens.”

The leaders of Neskantaga First Nation, located 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, have rightfully issued a set of demands, which must be met before evacuees will return, including:

  1. Running water available from taps on a 24-hour basis, as a temporary solution even if a boil water advisory exists as an interim solution.
  2. Immediate installation of two temporary portable water treatment units to provide safe drinking water from central locations.
  3. A new water distribution system that “meets highest current standards.”
  4. A survey of pipes in all residences by a certified plumber to “assess and repair leaks and additional system loads.”
  5. Decontamination of homes damaged by the current crisis.
  6. An immediate investigation into business practices of contractors and engineering companies who may have contributed to problems or caused delays.
  7. An immediate review of the contributing factors to the current water and public health crisis.

“The mere fact that the First Nation of Neskantaga has not had clean and safe tap water since 1995 is atrocious and in itself emblematic of the ongoing systemic racial oppression that First Nations and Indigenous communities deal with every day. This is yet another example of the failure of Governments writ large to extend to Indigenous communities even the most basic of necessities, let alone make good on their commitments to truth and reconciliation,” said Coates.

The Ontario Federation calls on the federal Liberals to fulfill their failed 2018 commitment of establishing a new operational water plant in Neskantaga. We further demand all levels of government take immediate action to ensure that the 300 displaced First Nation people who reside in the community, can adequately and safely return home for winter.

COPE 343

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