Neskantaga First Nation Plans to Self Evacuate over Water Crisis

Community is preparing to Self-Evacuate

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – UPDATED – A failure of the water pump and back-up pump in Neskantaga have created an emergency.

The Neskantaga school is being closed as there is no water going to the school. The Chief says that teachers are being evacuated for their safety.

Chief Moonias says, “The water pump that burnt out has nothing to do with the construction of the Water Treatment Plant. ISC is trying to say that this is the same issue as they are trying to justify what they have put in. The burnt-out pump is a whole different issue and it did not burn out as a result of any negligence. This happens because of wear and tear. Currently, there is low water pressure to some homes and some homes don’t have any water at all. The water flowing is untreated and may have some bacteria, therefore, the BOIL WATER ADVISORY has now been elevated to DO NOT USE WATER ADVISORY. The chlorine meter that flows in the water is reading 0.00.”

Chief Chris Moonias says, “I am calling for an evacuation due to the water crisis for the most vulnerable people (band members or not) using our own resources. It is clear that ISC and Health Canada will not take any further preventative actions, therefore, we have to do our own evacuation. Our staff is currently making the appropriate arrangements for this evacuation and you will be contacted by our staff. SHAME ON CANADA!!!”

Ontario Regional Chief Archibald says, “Grateful that Matawa and NAN are involved in coordinating and directly supporting in this urgent situation. I’ll continue to support the community through timely advocacy as they undertake this emergency action. Please keep Neskatanga in your prayers for a safe evacuation”.

NetNewsLedger reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last night on this story. We received a response from Minister O’Regan’s office last night promising a response this morning.

Indigenous Services Canada has been in conference calls with Neskantaga First Nation through the water crisis. We have received that response and published it in its entirety.

The Federal Government is offering 1.5 litres of water daily per person for drinking, washing, cleaning and all other uses.
The Federal Government is offering 1.5 liters of water daily per person for drinking, washing, cleaning and all other uses.

Yesterday the community was told there would not be an evacuation, but they would be supplying to community members with 1.5 liters of water for drinking, cooking, washing and other uses on a daily basis.

Minister O’Regan Statement

“All Canadians should have access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water. This afternoon, I spoke with Chief Moonias and expressed our firm commitment to resolving this issue and ensuring access to clean water for Neskantaga First Nation.
“We are working in full partnership with Neskantaga First Nation and Matawa Tribal Council on this issue and technicians will be in community working on urgent repairs on Monday.
“In the interim, bottled water is being provided to the community to ensure continued access to clean water.
“Neskantaga First Nation is also in the final stages of completing construction upgrades to the existing water treatment plant. In 2017, Indigenous Services Canada invested $8.8 million into this facility, and it is expected to be fully operational and providing clean water to the community in one month.
“We will continue to work with the community to ensure an immediate source of clean drinking water and to support the completion of the water treatment plant that will provide safe, clean, reliable drinking water for many years to come.”

Neskantaga Responds

Neskantaga First Nation is appalled with the federal government’s response and is calling for the immediate emergency evacuation of 188 people most directly affected. This includes those designated Stage 1 Chronic, who are: 50 females, 37 males, 72 children (2 years old+), Elders, and 17 infants (under 2 years). At least 10 patients so far are being treated for skin infections by the nursing station which is only open for emergencies due to this current water crisis.

The community is extremely concerned about the effects this will have and already people have reported beginning to experience headaches and fevers. They are concerned that the manner in which their water crisis is being responded to by the federal departments, including an environmental health officer, equating it to a “boil your water for one-minute” issue minimizes the severity of the situation.

Chief Chris Moonias concluded with the following statement: “This continued water crisis goes beyond boiling contaminated water—the bigger issue is that Peoples’ basic fundamental human rights are being contravened and continually ignored. It’s unbelievable that Canada, one of the richest countries in the world, continues to condone this kind of injustice on our vulnerable — Children and Elders especially.”

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