Opinion – Neskantaga Water Crisis

Neskantaga FN Water, before evacuation and after evacuation .. you see it’s not impossible to get clean water .. there’s just a lack of will - Neskantaga Chief Moonias
Neskantaga FN Water, before evacuation and after evacuation .. you see it’s not impossible to get clean water .. there’s just a lack of will - Neskantaga Chief Moonias

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.). No issues ever to be reported. Yet, Attawapiskat First Nation was continually dealing with a water crisis and if you recall not too long ago, another crisis where people couldn’t even take showers or drink the tap water.

We have this multimillion dollar mining company benefiting from the resources they took from Omushkegowuk lands, and Attawapiskat left with basically nothing from the mine that lasted for several years.

It’s not impossible to put proper water systems in First Nations communities, even the most remote ones. Just look at how they were able to do that at the Victor mine adjacent to Attawapiskat First Nation.

Now we have the government wanting to quickly change legislation so that it can benefit their genocide policy and the proposed Ring of Fire development. Neskantaga ancestral lands being in the Ring of Fire belt. How about fix the water crises in Neskantaga, in Attawapiskat as quickly and easily as you intend to change legislation (that erodes our Treaty and inherent rights). Put state-of-the-art water plants in the communities that need it as easily as was done at Victor mine, and as easily as it’s planned with the Ringof Fire operations.

The Ring of Fire operations will require some kind of water plant to run its mining. It will make absolutely no sense to see their water plant running in good working order all of a sudden while Neskantaga has been dealing with its water crisis for over 20 years. The government and mining company wants to rush this Ring of Fire development, but has no problem allowing Neskantaga First Nation with a 20+ years boil water advisory.

If the government can expect us to wait for more than 20 years to fix the water crisis, I’m sure it can wait 20 or more years to begin the Ring of Fire operations, and even with that, it would need our consent. Consent of Treaty rights holders.

Change your piece of legislation and run it through parliament, pass a law that requires all boil water advisories and water crises in First Nations to be fixed immediately, you know…as fast as you wanted to change that environmental legislation. Accelerate that process as fast as you did with your Treaty termination frameworks under the guise of ‘Recognition of Rights’.

If we were accepted and recognized as people along with our rights, we would not have the water crises in our communities. Our Treaty and inherent rights are tied to our lands and resources for as long as the sun shines, as long as the waters flow, as long as the grass grows, and as long as the winds blow.

You want to rush the process in the Ring of Fire? How about rush the process with clean water in First Nations.

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