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NESKATANGA STATE OF EMERGENCY
THE UPS AND DOWNS OF FIRST NATIONS LONG-TERM WATER ADVISORIES
On February 16, Neskatanga chief Wayne Moonias declared a state of emergency over drinking water in his community, stating in a letter to Indigenous Services Canada Minister Seamus O'Regan,
"The community is tired of relying on a compromised Reverse Osmosis Unit, which is not producing safe drinking water. The effects
of a 25-year boil water advisory are evident in all members of the community and we need your support in finally bringing the basic human right of clean drinking water back to Neskantaga."
Moonias called on the Minister to provide the community with bottled water.
Three days prior, Chief Moonias had effectively fired all government hired contractors working on the new treatment plant, saying that the community had decided to cease all operations on the new plant and ordered workers and officials from Kingdom Construction Limited (KCL) to "leave the community immediately." The plant, which was expected to be ready by March, has now been shut down.
In 2013, chief Moonias issued a state of emergency over suicides, after four suicides and 20 suicide attempts in his community. In 2016, he said the state of emergency would remain in effect until the root causes of the crisis were addressed.
Neskatanga is not alone in its battle for clean water and hope. There are currently 62 long-term water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada, six of which are Do Not consume (DNC) advisories: four in Ontario, (Bearskin Lake, Grassy Narrows, Northwest Angle No. 33, Wahta Mohawk); one in God's Lake, Manitoba; two in British Columbia, for the Stellat'en and Wet'suwet'en communities. None of these DNC advisories is expected to be lifted before March 2020, with the exception of Stellat'en, which should be lifted in March 2019.
In 2015, the Liberal government pledged to end all First nation long-term water advisories by March 2021. Since then, 78 advisories have been rescinded and 62 remain. However, six new long-term advisories have been added to the list as they had been in effect for more than a year. Four of these are in Ontario (Wabaseemoong, Chippewa of Georgina Island, Big Grassy, Wauzhushk Onigum, Northwest Angle No. 33); one in Saskatchewan in Nekaneet is expected to be lifted at the end of February 2019; and one in Manitoba (Tataskweyak Cree).
Issued in 1995, the BWA in Neskatanga is he oldest long-term advisory on the First Nation list. Shoal Lake 40 is next in line with an advisory issued in February 1997, it is not expected to be lifted until December 2020.
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