Indigenous Peoples’ struggles intensify over holiday season
Written by Mark Ramzy
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written on December 15th, 2020. On December 18th, 2020, it was indicated that the community would begin their return home, despite reports that the water crisis has not been resolved yet.
As Christmas and the new year come closer, many families are preparing to celebrate within the safety and comfort of their homes. However, for the people of the Neskantaga First Nation, this may not be a possibility during the upcoming holiday season.
Neskantaga has faced a horrifying water crisis for decades now, having a boil-water advisory spanning for over 25 years; the longest in Canada. Although Justin Trudeau’s government has promised to fix the issue, it seems to be as bad as ever this holiday season.
This past October, the majority of the community was evacuated from their homes after an oily substance was found in their reservoirs, and the water was shut off. A few members of the community decided to stay back to keep their homes heated and feed the pets of the community, who have unfortunately been left behind.
To aid the community as reparations take place, the government reserved a Victoria Inn located in Thunder Bay, over 400 kilometers away from their home. Initially, the 200-plus people were told they would be able to return home in the first week of November. The return date was delayed multiple times, leaving them puzzled and upset with the situation. As of now in mid-December, the people of Neskantaga remain separated from their homes.
Amidst the frustrating sequence of events surrounding this situation, an uproar of community support has emerged. Indigenous Rights Activist, Chelsea Jane Edwards, began a nationwide campaign to send Christmas Cards to the families of Neskantaga as a way to provide a morale boost while they try to acclimate to their current situation. Alongside her is the strong support of Charlie Angus, the NDP Member of Parliament for Timmins – James Bay, as well as the Human Rights Watch Canada organization. Sending a card to a family would go a long way to cheer them up during the unfortunate times they are facing.
It goes without saying just how much this one tiny act of kindness can do to ease the stress facing the members of Neskantaga. However, it is time for the government to fulfill their long-awaited promises and address the root of the issue facing the community, which is just one of many Indigenous communities across Canada facing a traumatic water crisis.