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3rd November 2020
Colonialism, Racism and Inaction at Heart of Longest Boil Water Advisory in Canada

By James Murray -October 27, 2020

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – On Monday, Sol Mamakwa, the New Democratic Party MPP for the Northern Ontario riding of Kiiwetinoong visited the almost empty ghost town that is Neskantanga First Nation.

There is an oily sheen on the water in Neskantaga’s Water Treatment Plant.

Mamakwa says that it is colonialism, racism, and band-aid solutions that are at the heart of the problem.

The community has evacuated to Thunder Bay because the water in the community has been shut off. Neskantaga has been under a boil water advisory since 1995 after the community’s water treatment plant broke down. The plant was built in 1994.

There have been numerous efforts to solve the problem.

This problem has been going on for almost 10,000 days.

Mamakwa says that he wants to send a “shout-out” to Thunder Bay, and particularly to Thunder Bay Fire Rescue for stepping up with the evacuation during the pandemic.

Chief Moonias has had to evacuate the community twice so far during his term.

Neskantaga is under a state of emergency.

Chief Chris Moonias and members of the Council have identified the minimum conditions they will accept before considering a return of their members who were forced to evacuate this week due to the immediate health threats from the remote community’s water system. “I have sent these conditions to Indigenous Services Minister and I expect a meaningful response and plan of action,” said Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias.

“The people of Neskantaga have suffered tremendously, and it is unacceptable that government officials have refused to recognize this as a health emergency. Our people need help now. We are First Peoples living in third-world conditions treated as second-class citizens in a supposedly rich country.”

Minimum Demands of Neskantaga First Nation Before Consideration of Repatriation to Community after Evacuation:
1. Running water must be available from the taps on a 24-hour basis, even if a boil water advisory still exists, only as an interim solution;

2. Two (2) portable membrane package water treatment units need to be immediately mobilized/installed in the community so that clean drinking water can be produced to mitigate the effects of the crisis, and before damage to the system from cold temperatures;

3. Given that the current water treatment and distribution system has been a patchwork of ‘Band-Aid’ solutions since first being repaired (1994-present), government must commit and immediately move forward with examining the feasibility of continuing with repairing a flawed system versus the design and construction of a new water distribution system that meets the highest current standards;

4. Undertaking an extensive certified plumbing survey is required immediately in all residences and unoccupied lots to assess and repair leaks and additional system loads.

5. Decontamination of homes and associated repairs of water hardware (pipes, sinks, taps, faucets) in disrepair caused by the crisis;

6. An immediate investigation into business practices of contractors, engineering companies, etc.; and

7. An immediate investigation/evaluation of contributing factors to the current water and public health crisis.