July 20, 2024
In the Neskantaga First Nation, undrinkable water is a crisis of health and faith
Every three days, Norm Moonias, seen here on on Aug. 20, 2019, heads to the reverse-osmosis water shed with nine jugs to fill for the nine people who live at his home in the Neskantaga First Nation in northwestern Ontario.
Every three days, Norm Moonias, seen here on on Aug. 20, 2019, heads to the reverse-osmosis water shed with nine jugs to fill for the nine people who live at his home in the Neskantaga First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

After a quarter-century of Canada’s longest boil-water advisory, the people of Neskantaga thought their water crisis could not possibly get worse.

They were wrong. The breakdown of two electric pumps has left the isolated First Nations community without any water in some of its homes this week, and only a trickle of unchlorinated water in others. Its school has shut down, and nearly 100 people were flown to Thunder Bay on emergency evacuation flights on Sunday, with more evacuations scheduled for Monday evening.

Some residents are already reporting headaches and skin infections from the water, according to Chief Chris Moonias.

The federal Liberals have pledged to eliminate all of the 56 remaining boil-water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada by March, 2021. But the prolonged crisis at Neskantaga and other First Nations has raised doubts about whether or not that promise will be met.

In a media briefing on Monday, officials from the federal Indigenous Services department suggested the Neskantaga residents could take sponge baths with boiled water for hygiene. They said they expect a replacement pump to be installed by Wednesday to fix the problem. The evacuation flights were an unapproved “self-evacuation” by the community, they said.

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See Also:

(1) Liberals cut reserves’ boil advisories, but water-system problems linger

(2) More than 100 shell casings recovered from site of Mississauga shooting that killed teenage boy

(3) Ontario politicians gather to open annual plowing match

(4) Mixed recyclables are headed to an Ontario landfill. Here’s why

(5) Ontario education workers vote 93 per cent in favour of job action

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