THUNDER BAY — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says that since the federal Liberal government has let people down by refusing to ensure there is clean, safe drinking water in First Nations communities, the province needs to step in, address the water crisis and send the bill to Ottawa.
Visiting northern First Nations this week, Horwath spent time in Neskantaga First Nation, where she met with the nation’s leadership and community members. Neskantaga has been under a boil water advisory for 25 years. Horwath also spent time in Attawapiskat First Nation, attending a community forum on water and other health issues. Attawapiskat recently was forced to declare a state of emergency as a result of unsafe water.
“Imagine being part of an entire generation in your community – growing up as kids, maturing through adolescence, becoming adults, and entering parenthood yourself – all while never knowing what it’s like to drink the water from your tap,” said Horwath. “Shamefully, this is all too real for families in Neskantaga who have been under a boil water advisory for 25 years.”
“While in Attawapiskat I met Jackie, a woman whose granddaughter was born with a severe heart defect,” added Horwath. “Her granddaughter is now home with a clean bill of health, but Jackie still lives with fear because of the water in her community. For Jackie, doing something as simple as bathing her granddaughter is dangerous because the water is so full of chemicals that it creates toxic fumes in the shower.”
Horwath echoed the voices of these community members while speaking at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Keewaywin Conference in Kingfisher Lake First Nation on Wednesday.
“Reconciliation is not role-playing,” said Horwath. “It’s acknowledging the wrongs that were done through colonialism, and the wrongs that continue to be done, and it is taking concrete action to do much, much better.
“Ontario can and must fix the water in these communities immediately, and send the bill to Ottawa. Clean water is a basic human right, and if Ontario is serious about Reconciliation, then acting now to clean up the water is what Reconciliation looks like.”