By Michael Novotny:
The Neskantaga First Nation Tribe of Canada has lacked clean water for more than twenty years, and they are not alone in their struggles. As of February 2017, there were eighty-one First Nations communities that were on the list of drinking water advisories set by Canada. The twenty year water quality issue of the Neskantaga has been acknowledged by Canada but little has been done and that needs to change.
The Neskantaga First Nation Tribe of Canada is located in northern Ontario. There are a little more than three hundred people who live in the community. A water treatment plant was built in 1993 but it failed to produce proper drinking water immediately. In 1995, Canada issued a boil advisory for the community and little has changed since then. A reverse osmosis system was placed near the community but it lies at the bottom of a steep hill and residents of the community must travel to the plant to retrieve water themselves and carry it back home.
This problem compounds when communities like the Neskantaga have limited access to doctors and nurses. Pouring water from the tap, boiling it for ten minutes, and then putting it in the refrigerator to cool for use is a large hassle. Traveling to the reverse osmosis system to retrieve water can be an even bigger hassle because many in the community do not own vehicles.
The Naskantaga First Nations Tribe dropped from fourth on the government’s priority list for water plant upgrades to nineteenth without any changes occurring in the community. It has been estimated that a new water treatment plant in the Neskantaga community would cost $8 million. Multiply that by the number of communities across Canada that are on the drinking water advisory list and it is obviously a large concern. There is some hope though. In 2016, CAD$4.6 billion was proposed to be invested in indigenous community infrastructures over the next five years. This proposal includes addressing drinking water and wastewater systems. Similar proposals have been made in the past but the government has failed to follow through on improving water conditions in indigenous communities.
Across the globe, indigenous communities are dealing with unclean water issues. Many of these issues have been identified but have resulted in little government action to rectify these problems. The Neskantaga First Nations Tribe of Canada has currently gone more than twenty years without clean water in their community. People in the Neskantaga community and other indigenous communities, across not only Canada but other parts of the world, are dealing with serious health concerns because of water issues. Is it not everyone’s right to have access to clean water? Proposals and promises are not enough. These communities need action so that they can enjoy things that most of the population take for granted on a daily basis.