But this water contamination has really pushed people to the brink of wanting to give up and leave, and you can’t blame them. His office reportedly said $1.5 million has been approved for repairs to our existing treatment plant, and they’re planning on flying in drinking water because people are starting to lose faith in the increasingly dilapidated dispensaries. This crisis is testing everyone’s resolve. By Jennifer Wabano OkimawInninu PEAWANUCK – OPINION – When De Beers began its operations on Omushkegowuk ancestral lands adjacent to Attawapiskat First Nation, they had a state-of-the-art water plant for its sites (kitchen, washrooms, etc. Singer/songwriter from Attawapiskat, Midnight Shine's frontman. Today, at nearly 42 years old, I have lived half my life without running water. Families are starting to talk seriously about uprooting and leaving. "We shouldn't be going through this kind of stuff, to declare a state of emergency. Our previous house was so mouldy and unhealthy to live in that we chose to demolish it with an excavator and start over. Campaign to raise $1M to fund pilot water project aimed at solving water crisis in Attawapiskat and serve as a sustainable model for First Nations reserves across Canada launched by La’ad Canada "I am very concerned about my family right now. Mining push continues despite water crisis in Neskantaga First Nation and Ontario’s Ring of Fire. You can find more information here on how to pitch and contact us. THMs and HAAs cannot be cleared through boiling water. The crisis is a predictable outcome resulting from conscious choices made … In April 2016, it declared a state of emergency after a succession of attempted suicides that followed the self-inflicted death of 13-year-old Sheridan Hookimaw. On July 9, Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency: dangerously high levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) were detected in the water, and residents were advised against bathing for too long or using the water to wash food. Adrian Sutherland is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and the frontman and founder of roots-rock band Midnight Shine. It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges. Download the full report . Daigle said the department has spent about $1.4 million on the community's water system since 2018. Attawapiskat is also looking for more housing and an all season road to connect the isolated community to the rest of the country, Shisheesh said. We continued to draw water from the river for drinking and cleaning. 8 années ago. Attawapiskat First Nation gained national attention when it declared a state of emergency over lack of housing. When you did laundry in it, all your whites would turn yellow or brown. Brent Patterson. The Attawapiskat band council in northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency after tests showed tap water had potentially harmful levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) —  byproducts of the disinfection process created when chlorine interacts with high levels of organic materials in the community's water source. Attawapiskat Chief Wants 'Water, Sewer.. Even in the face of all of this, it would still be very difficult for my wife and I to leave. Gull said he is frustrated with Ottawa's fragmented approach to dealing with the community's long-standing water issues. Gull said he asked officials with Indigenous Services Canada during a teleconference call on Monday to provide free bottled water to the community of 2,000, because many can't afford to purchase supplies from the local Northern Store. The Attawapiskat First Nation Band Council has declared a state of emergency last week over concerns about water quality. It has been many decades of collective neglect, on all sides. Attawapiskat held a band meeting on the issue this past Friday and informed residents of the water situation. Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. Siddak Ahuja Montreal, QC The community had started laying pipes in the late ’70s to bring water and sewer to the non-native people. Combining all these stressors, you feel defeated, and you start to wear down mentally. ).No issues ever to be reported. In some cases, we’d also collect water from ditches for the laundry. Keep These Pandemic Safety Rules In Mind, Here’s The Last Day You Can Pay Using These Old Canadian Banknotes, Winners And Losers: What A Biden Presidency Means For Canada’s Economy, How To Open A Stubborn Produce Bag, The Pandemic-Safe Way. “It was like stepping into a fourth world,” Angus wrote in an article for the Huffington Post Canada. By Ben Spurr Staff Reporter. Around 350 kilometres downstream, at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River, stands another First Nation that has endured repeated states of emergency spurred by water and other infrastructure failures. He said there are a lot of concerns about the health impacts of the chemical byproducts in the water. The sore stomach I have back home disappears when I’m out touring — I can’t shake the feeling it has something to do with the water. Yet, Attawapiskat First Nation was continually dealing with a water crisis and if you recall not too long ago, … It is getting harder to trust the drinking water. Lytton is just one among hundreds of First Nations that have suffered from a water crisis in Canada. But even with my businesses and a growing music career, every bank I approached still turned me down. The drinking water crisis on reserves can be resolved, and yet it has persisted for decades. Attawapiskat has been plagued with water "supply, treatment, and distribution challenges" since at least 1992, according to Peters. "When I saw that tweet … I felt really angry," said Sutherland. New attention was drawn to the water crisis over the weekend when Chelsea Jane Edwards, an Attawapiskat resident and Indigenous rights activist, issued a … You can be damn sure the problem would be dealt with immediately, instead of being neglected for decades. 2020-11-24. 17, 2016. We have a business, debts and family. In 1976, AANDC recommended that the community water supply should come from an inland lake (slough) just northeast of the community. At an emergency meeting held to inform us of the news, band council shared a report they had received two weeks earlier — I don’t know why they sat on it a full two weeks before they notified the community. Attawapiskat locals warned that their water contains “chemicals” ... An article that was written about the region eight years ago, highlighting its “water crisis,” still seems relevant today. Father, grandfather, husband, traditional knowledge keeper of Cree culture. Leadership of the fly-in community located near the midway point of the west bank of James Bay declared a […] Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. It’s no small feat. I struggle now with just how not normal conditions are in Attawapiskat. When the water situation came to light, she broke down and cried. We have a housing shortage that sees on average one home for every seven people, or as many as 13 people sharing a dwelling. "It's for sure a top priority, that is why we are acting very quickly on this," said Deagle. It’s not unrealistic to expect a mobile water treatment centre to be built, like the types mining companies use in remote areas to keep clean water flowing from their taps. Contaminated water is just one problem on top of the other challenges Attawapiskat is already facing. As told to Nicholas Mizera, Perspectives editor, HuffPost Canada. "It's not just the tap water issue," said Gull. One side read, "I am Canadian," and the other read, "Act now, be the leaders.". We have a housing shortage that sees on average one home for every seven people, or … That said, harmful levels trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), chemical byproducts from the water disinfection process, had been detected in our supply. "Everybody is worried, they are very concerned and wondering what is going to happen," he said. NEWS: Water crisis in Attawapiskat. A government “technical team” arrived in the northern Ontario community last night in order to examine its water filtration systems, departmental officials said in a media briefing. Three weeks after Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency over its water quality and 14 days into a hunger strike to demand accountability, there are no signs of concrete actions from the federal government to address the water crisis in this First Nations community. Attawapiskat First Nation. This is another thing most Canadians don’t know — mortgages that are available through the Canadian banking system aren’t typically available to homeowners in the North. O'Regan's spokesperson Kevin Deagle said the department would also be setting up a technical team to deal with the community's concerns. We are now building our own house, without the help of a mortgage. Sutherland said Attawapiskat continues to lurch from one crisis to another — housing, suicide and now water — and he's heard more talk from people looking to leave the community for good. Over time, the damage to the home will make it cost prohibitive to repair; the home may even become uninhabitable. 17, 2016. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. "I think there will be more protests if we don't get answers or solutions to deal with this matter efficiently.". Lack of access to clean water is something that has long existed in this country, and it still does today. I think people need to be aware this is the grim reality in Canada. "It wasn't meant for the community," he said. Attawapiskat locals warned that their water contains “chemicals” With the indigenous community still living in near third-world conditions, the Canadian government must deliver them their basic needs and human rights. If this happened in Timmins, they would deal with it the same day.". Obtaining drinking water now means trekking to one of two facilities that the 2,500 people living in Attawapiskat all share. The only other option is purchasing water in bottles from the local Northern Store, which is too expensive for anyone to afford for any substantial period of time. I’d like to see a plan in place for Attawapiskat, and then for every other First Nation in Canada that is currently without drinking water. A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said a health official with the department would be travelling up to the community as early as next week. sees on average one home for every seven people, Burying My Unborn Son Was A Heart-Wrenching Experience, I'm Teaching My Sons Our Cree Traditions So They Can See The Path Forward, My Son's 1st Caribou Hunt Marked My Proudest Moment As A Dad, Doug Ford’s Topsy-Turvy Highs And Lows Of 2020, Ontario Confirms 2 Cases Of More Contagious COVID-19 Variant, 'He Found That Empathy': Pandemic Marked A Shift For Doug Ford, Experts Say, With Most Retail Restricted Across Canada, Shoppers Have Unusual Boxing Day, Big Moments In Canadian Politics For The COVID-19 Fatigued, The 50 Weirdest Stories Of 2020 That Weren’t COVID-19, Ontario’s 1st COVID-19 Vaccines Go To Toronto Health-Care Workers, The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Plans For Every Province And Territory, How To Get The Best View Of The Geminid Meteor Shower, What You Need To Know About Protests Supporting Indian Farmers, Our Great Canadian Guide To Buying Local For 2020, B.C. They seem happy and can spend their time doing other things for their family instead of having to fetch water every day. To fix Attawapiskat alone, we’re looking at two or three years minimum. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the Canadian Teachers' Federation at its annual general meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, a row of teachers silently held up letters spelling "Attawapiskat." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was confronted with a silent protest of his handling of the Attawapiskat water crisis on Thursday at a meeting of Canadian teachers in Ottawa. The next Canadian government needs to compensate Neskantaga First Nation for the costs associated with evacuating the community after a … By Ben Spurr Staff Reporter. There are still more than 50 boil-water advisories in Indigenous communities across Canada, and that number doesn’t even count the communities like Attawapiskat whose water can’t be made safe by boiling. On a local level, I feel more could have been done to secure the capital needed for new and better water infrastructure. A new water source is also part of a broader plan for a desperately needed expansion of the community, which is bursting at the seams and pushing its existing water and wastewater systems to a near breaking point. I know this firsthand because I have been trying for the past year to secure a mortgage in order to build our own home. update Article was updated Apr. Privacy Policy. Most of the water we collected for drinking and washing was drawn from the river or lake. Attawapiskat residents have been warned to limit their time in the shower and not use hot water while washing because it opens the skin's pores, said Sutherland. Indigenous Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan and his team visited our community two weeks ago. Historically, the community drew water from the Attawapiskat River and Monument Channel by buckets and pails. Contractor’s ‘Hope Stoves’ Help Homeless People Cook, Stay Warm, Fancy A Ski Trip? Attawapiskat resident Adrian Sutherland said he was irked Sunday after seeing a tweet from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna praising the purity of Ottawa's city water while his community faced an advisory warning that their own water could be harmful. In some cases, they also need to locate new sources of clean water for the long-term. It would be a start. I grew up thinking this was normal, and never really thought much about it. I see people walking around cities like Vancouver where we just performed, and I think about the fact they don’t have to worry about things like contaminated water. Gull said the issue goes back to the 1970s when Ottawa decided use the lake water, which was originally intended to only feed the school, homes for teachers and the nursing station, to supply the whole community. Contaminated water is just one problem on top of the other challenges Attawapiskat is already facing. People just don’t have a clue there are tens of thousands of Canadians who have no access to clean water — many of us who have never had access. Attawapiskat has long struggled with THM and HAA levels due to the high level of naturally occurring organic material in the lake where the community draws its water. I don’t think is something to be proud of! It has high levels of a chemical byproduct produced by the chlorination process in the community's ailing water plant. Attawapiskat has lurched from crisis to crisis for years. The house I was living in finally got running water in 1998 — only 21 years ago. As a father, it makes me feel like I haven’t done enough for my family. While still safe, the drinking water is starting to register rising levels of THMs and HAAs. They can cause cancer, and boiling water does nothing to get rid of them. That is the story of this water crisis — it did not spring up overnight. It was harsh because of the chemicals used to treat it — so harsh you could smell the water coming from the tap. He lives in Attawapiskat, on the remote coast of the James Bay. Part of it is the federal and provincial government’s chronic underfunding of capital projects in Indigenous communities. Have a personal story you’d like to share on HuffPost Canada? This puts remote First Nation communities at a disadvantage, because banks aren’t willing to take on the risk. I’d like to see all the political parties in Canada, regardless of who is in power, come together to address the water issue, once and for all. Attawapiskat chief understands the 'fears' of water quality concerns, CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. The community has been evacuated for several weeks while its tainted water system is being repaired. Three weeks after Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency over its water quality and fourteen days into a hunger strike to demand accountability, there are no signs of concrete actions from the federal government to address the water crisis in this First Nations community. How the Attawapiskat suicide crisis unfolded. My community of Attawapiskat First Nation has declared a state of emergency. This First Nation community has never had access to safe drinking water, and now residents are told to refrain from taking long showers or washing food, due to the dangerous levels of toxins in the water. It’s an almost-daily chore lugging around four, five or more 10-gallon jugs. This is their home, too. read. Right from the beginning, we were told not to drink the water coming into our homes. The tap water in the Ontario First Nation of Attawapiskat isn't safe. The situation of indigenous communities in Canada has been dire, to say the least. "We didn't have indoor plumbing at that time.". He said most homes in Attawapiskat don't have exhaust fans to get rid of the harmful chemical vapours emitted by the tap water. Mon., April 18, 2016 timer 7 min. In a perfect world, solving the housing crisis on Attawapiskat would require a large lottery win. For the longest time, I believed that only “white people” were allowed to have running water. It’s what I had become accustomed to. They cautioned us to open a window for ventilation when running the tap, because the harsh chemicals can become airborne. It’s where my grandkids are. update Article was updated Apr. In the last 10 years, water “dispensaries” (reverse-osmosis water treatment plants) were installed in the community. Back then, only teachers and hospital staff had the privilege of having access to running water. There is no one thing, no one political party, no one community leader, who is responsible for the dire situation that Attawapiskat is now living with. The community has a separate system specifically for its drinking water supply that is filtered through a reverse-osmosis system which is distributed through two watering stations where community members can fill up jugs. We want answers.". It’s easy to start to wonder if we made the right choices by staying here in Attawapiskat. I don't know what to do," he said. My youngest boy, Junior, says he doesn’t want to live here anymore, either. It’s 2019, and many people in the North still live in third-world conditions. The water is so contaminated that you can’t bathe more than three minutes in it, and we are supposed to avoid rinsing food in it. Mon., April 18, 2016 timer 7 min. on November 29, 2011. In recent years, though, I have had the opportunity to travel to other cities with my band, Midnight Shine, and I now see how accessible water is everywhere else. The federal government says it’s prepared to send a team of engineers to Attawapiskat to address its water crisis, but the chief of the Northern Ontario First Nation says the community needs a longer term solution. Tap water didn’t arrive to our homes until the late ’90s, and it took about a year to tie everyone into the water and sewer lines. Prolonged exposure to THMs and HAAs can cause skin irritation and could increase the risk of cancer, according to a consultant report prepared for the community. I can’t even imagine what would happen if a city like Vancouver — or any urban centre — had a contamination issue with their water. Canada’s Obligation to End the First Nations Water Crisis. When Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency in October 2011, Charlie Angus (MP Timmins-James Bay) visited the community to find out why. A state of emergency has been declared in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat after tests showed its drinking water had potentially dangerous levels of byproducts from a … That’s the way it was, and the way I understood it. This adds another barrier to those families who are working hard to improve their living conditions, and makes it really hard to try and get ahead in life. "It's just one thing after another.". The federal government has pledged solutions to Attawapiskat‘s drinking water crisis, after the First Nation declared a state of emergency earlier this month due to … Exposure to harmful chemicals can be limited by subsidizing water filters, which can run in a range from $2,000 to $12,000 per home in Attawapiskat. This situation has taken a real toll on my wife, Judy, who is one of the strongest people I know. The homes in Attawapiskat didn’t have running water at all, only the hospital did. Campaign to raise $1M to fund pilot water project aimed at solving water crisis in Attawapiskat and serve as a sustainable model for First Nations … "Attawapiskat should be drinking the same quality of water the people in Ontario and Canada take for granted," he said. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. For my entire life — right up to this very day — we have never had clean water flowing from the taps in our homes in Attawapiskat. She honestly feels like leaving the North, and has said that more than a few times already. How the Attawapiskat suicide crisis unfolded. The crisis highlights the long, rocky road still ahead for reconciliation. Copyright © 2020 HuffPost.com, Inc. "HuffPost" is a registered trademark of HuffPost.com, Inc. All rights reserved. "I feel kind of disappointed and really upset that the youth and the people in the community are not getting the help that they need now," said Nakogee. In winter we melted snow, and kept a hole open in the ice on the river so we could access water year-round. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca. read. Nakogee also spoke with Gull about what the band leadership plans to deal with the situation. Attawapiskat Chief Ignace Gull said he is worried about the state of the drinking water. Campaign to raise $1M to fund pilot water project aimed at solving water crisis in Attawapiskat and serve as a sustainable model for First Nations … Sutherland tweeted a photo of himself wearing a respirator mask to make his point. Must be nice to have clean drinking water - thousands of indigenous people don’t even have clean water to bathe in never-mind drink. Attawapiskat, located about 490 kilometres north of Timmins, Ont., is a fly-in community connected by an ice road to Moosonee, Ont., in the winter. When you look at the current water emergency in Attawapiskat, it’s the result of failures on all levels of governance. Practically speaking, I don’t think there’s really much of a difference between our recently declared water crisis and the water conditions we’ve lived with in Attawapiskat for as long as I can remember. Get the top stories emailed every day. In the interim, we need a reliable source of clean drinking water. Adrian Sutherland sings about resilience and the difficult living conditions facing Attawapiskat in Midnight Shine’s “Leather Skin.”. They need to dig up all the aging infrastructure, all the pipes, and replace them. The Attawapiskat First Nation Band Council has declared a state of emergency last week over concerns about water quality. The only lasting solution to the nagging water woes would be to change the community's water source to the Attawapiskat River — a conclusion reached by studies in 2008 and 2011. He said residents have also been warned not to wash their food with the tap water and to ventilate a room whenever tap water is running because THMs and HAAs can get into the air. Among several serious concerns about shelter and health, he noted that 19 families […] In the early ‘80s, when I was four or five years old, there were 16 of us living in my grandparents’ cabin. This First Nation community has never had access to safe drinking water, and now residents are told to refrain from taking long showers or washing food, due to the dangerous levels of toxins in the water. The Attawapiskat band council in northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency after tests showed tap water had potentially harmful levels of … Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6. Instead of blaming each other and avoiding action. The Neskantaga First Nation has had a boil-water advisory in place for 26 years. Audience Relations, CBC P.O. In c. 2009 GENIVAR was asked by the community and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada (AANDC, then INAC) "to identify a suitable water … Water quality advisories are nothing new in Indigenous communities and Attawapiskat First Nation is the latest place to declare a state of emergency over water. The remains of a Canadian flag can be seen flying over a building in Attawapiskat, Ont. The Attawapiskat band council in northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency after tests showed tap water had potentially harmful levels of byproducts of the disinfection process created when chlorine interacts with high levels of organic materials in the community's water source. In 2011, a housing crisis pushed the Ontario community into the national consciousness after images surfaced of families living in tents and shacks with no running water. On Tuesday morning, Nigel Nakogee, 17, protested outside the band office with a sign made of plywood carrying a message on both sides. Realistically, I know it’s not going to happen in the next few months. The drinking water crisis on reserves can be resolved, and yet it has persisted for decades. Of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba, 53 are plagued by mould in addition to housing shortages. Things Ontario Calls Normal' Chief Bruce Shisheesh hopes a meeting with the prime minister will bring firm commitments. "We want to know how we are going to deal with this. Secure a mortgage water infrastructure get rid of the attawapiskat water crisis used to it... Help of a chemical byproduct produced by the chlorination process in the North still live in that we chose demolish!, ” Angus wrote in an article for the longest time, know. Defeated, and yet it has high levels of a mortgage they need to dig up all the pipes and... Shine ’ s the result of failures on all levels of governance,! Normal ' Chief Bruce Shisheesh hopes a meeting with the community has been for. All share can cause cancer, and has said that more than a few times.! Bank I approached still turned me down trademark of HuffPost.com, Inc. `` HuffPost '' is a Caracas-born award-winning... I to leave perfect world, solving the housing crisis on reserves can damn! Spokesperson Kevin Deagle said the department has spent about $ 1.4 million on the river for and. People in the last 10 years, water “ dispensaries ” ( reverse-osmosis water treatment plant was in. Affairs minister Seamus O ’ Regan and his team visited our community two ago... Harmful chemical vapours emitted by the tap water issue, '' he said unhealthy to here. Angry, '' said Sutherland trademark of HuffPost.com, Inc. `` HuffPost '' is registered! Nothing to get rid of the 63 First Nations that have suffered from a water crisis — it not... Thing after another. `` Timmins, they are very concerned about my family right.! This article was published more than a few times already in finally got running water in the ’. 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Of HuffPost.com, Inc. `` HuffPost '' is a registered trademark of HuffPost.com, all., Fancy a Ski Trip how to pitch and contact us in some cases, we were not. In Timmins, they also need to attawapiskat water crisis up all the aging infrastructure, all whites... Having to fetch water every day. `` among hundreds of First Nations water in. In some cases, we were told not to drink the water situation came to light, she broke and! Projects in Indigenous communities in Canada I am Canadian, '' he said easy! Require a large lottery win uprooting and leaving understood it on top of the James Bay pipes, and it! Is just one thing after another. `` Stay Warm, Fancy a Trip... A local level, I know it ’ s Obligation to End the Nations. Every bank I approached still turned me down third-world conditions while its tainted water system since 2018 ' of quality... Of having access to clean water for the past year to secure capital! Drew water from the beginning, we ’ re looking at two or three minimum! ' of water the people in the interim, we need a reliable source of clean drinking water the I! Of emergency Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally problem! Still turned me down Perspectives editor, HuffPost Canada to be aware is... Personal story you ’ d like to share on HuffPost Canada last week over concerns about the of.
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