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CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TURNS BACK ON FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE

category north america / mexico | indigenous struggles | other libertarian press author Tuesday October 25, 2005 06:14author by Oread Daily Report this post to the editors

Chief Fontaine said he hopes racism is not the reason why water problems on reserves are ignored, while E. coli cases in Walkerton, Ont., or North Battleford, Sask., spark major controversy. “I hope to God that's not the reason, but boy, it makes you wonder."

CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TURNS BACK ON FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE - Oread Daily

The Globe and Mail reports, the chief of the remote Kashechewan reserve in Northern Ontario, where E. coli has been found in the drinking water and the local school has been closed, is calling on Ottawa to remove his community until a new filtration system is built.

Instead, the national government has sent bottled waters and government officials.

Chief Leo Friday said, "We are looking for money to evacuate,” adding that Timmins would be the only reasonable place for Kashechewan's 1,700 residents to go.

Dr. Murray Trussler who visited the sick on the Northern Ontario reserve last week said the remote community struggling with E. coli problems agrees with Chief Friday.

"Nothing here is worth saving. The homes aren't worth saving. The nursing station is way outdated. We need a hospital here, not a nursing station. It needs to be run to provincial standards, not federal standards, which are totally substandard. And we need to have a proper water-treatment facility . . . and the school needs to be replaced."

Dr. Trussler, chief of staff at Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory, the base hospital for 12,000 people on the James Bay coast, is part of a delegation from the reserve which has flown to Toronto to meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Meanwhile Chief Friday says,"We cannot open the school because we don't have a boiler to boil water for the kids. . . . People in the community are very upset."

Chief Friday warns of violence if something isn’t done soon.

"I think people are getting upset, especially the youth," Chief Friday said. "I don't know what is going to happen next week if nothing is functioning. They [the youth] are talking about burning 10 houses every month," Chief Friday said.

Dr. Trussler, who described living conditions on the reserve as atrocious, told the Globe and Mail, “We've got drainage ditches in the community draining into the water supply." He said the ditches drain into a creek and all the refuse that collects floats downstream and is then sucked into the water-treatment plant.

The problems at the plant, whose intake is located 135 metres downstream from the release point of the community's raw sewage, are also influenced by the tides in James Bay.

Dr. Trussler explains, "What's happening is that all the E. coli is sort of slopping down toward the water-treatment plant, then we have an incoming tide and it goes back up river again, and then we get E. coli coming in and more spilling back."

Dr. Trussler said that because of the problems of E. coli, the level of chlorine in the water, which is routinely extremely high, had to be jacked up to "shock levels."

This has aggravated skin diseases, which are endemic at Kashechewan. "[High chlorine] just irritates and dries the skin further, so there is more itching and scratching, which just spreads things like scabies and impetigo."

He said that he had examined children who, for more than a year, have had impetigo, a bacterial skin disease that can cause the formation of pustules and a thick yellow crust on skin, commonly on the face.

He also said that he had seen cases of gastroenteritis, probably due to E. coli, but this cannot be confirmed until testing is completed.

"We ran across a lady who reportedly had hepatitis A. This is a virus. We don't normally screen for that. When we do a water sample, we look at E. coli and coliform counts, but we don't look for viruses," Dr. Trussler said.

He said that when he asked about protecting people from hepatitis A, Ontario offered to provide 100,000 doses of a vaccine against it, but the federal government turned it down, saying there was no hepatitis A problem in Northern Canada.

"This is absolute rubbish. There are 100 native communities in Canada currently under a boil-water advisory. Any time you are under a boil-water advisory, there's probability you are going to run into hepatitis A sooner or later," Dr. Trussler said.

The water-treatment system was controversial even before it broke down again a few days ago because it had been built about 135 metres downstream from the release point of the community's raw sewage. Chief Friday said sewage goes directly into the water-filtration system and it should be rebuilt somewhere else.

About 1,900 residents of Kashechewan First Nation have been under a Health Canada boil-water order for more than two years. The situation descended into crisis last week when federal officials warned of high E. coli levels in tap water.

New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jack Layton, who visited Kashechewan during the summer said, “This government is a disgrace when it comes to dealing with aboriginal issues. . . . This is one of the worst, most disgusting examples of 'all talk, no action' from this government. Where is the sense of urgency?"

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents Kashechewan, says the reserve is "the unfortunate poster boy of federal indifference on First Nations."

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine called for immediate action by the federal government on the water crisis in Kashechewan. There has been no action by the federal government even though the community has been under a boil water advisory since 2003.

Chief Fontaine said the first step is to deal with the crisis in Kashechewan. “Then we must map-out a comprehensive plan to address this issue on a national basis because this situation occurs in far too many First Nations communities in Canada."

Chief Fontaine said there are more than 100 first nations communities under boil-water advisories. Half of them are in Ontario.

A report by the Office of the Auditor General issued less than one month ago (September 29) concluded that the federal government's unregulated and poorly coordinated approach to First Nations water treatment poses a very real and dangerous threat to First Nations citizens.

"The situation nationally has been known for many years," stated Chief Fontaine. "I have personally seen the effects of inadequate treatment on communities from coast to coast. I saw a similar situation when I visited Gilford Island in British Columbia. The situation is echoed across the country and it's a ticking time bomb. Any community under boil water advisory could at any time find themselves in a situation like the one in Kashechewan. It is absolutely appalling and completely unacceptable that the federal government allows these conditions to fester and plague a community, while boasting of a federal surplus."

Chief Fontaine said he hopes racism is not the reason why water problems on reserves are ignored, while E. coli cases in Walkerton, Ont., or North Battleford, Sask., spark major controversy. “I hope to God that's not the reason, but boy, it makes you wonder."

Kashechewan First Nation located on the west shore of James Bay is accessible by air. The native language is Ojibway/Cree. Sources: CNW Group, Indian Life, Globe and Mail (Canada), Canadian Press

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author by Harry Gatley - Emery Energypublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 05:27author email nobogartdadoobie at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address 159 West Pierpont Avenue Salt Lake UT 84101 USAauthor phone (801) 364-8283Report this post to the editors

In regards the native peoples of Ontario. I ama P.Eng. Chemical Engineer in Ontario, grad of the University of Toronto 1977. Many years ago (1985) I and Professor Lewis Molot of York Univ. tried and failed in a similar fashion to improve the groundwater situation in the region of Serpent River. The local chief was an MBA and astute enough to get the gov to do something.

They used the 'good old boy' network however and the solution was worse than the problem. Not that I have any answers to how do you make politicans honest...after all I live in the USA now. I just wish to thank you for publishing the news as it helps me an dothers to keep informed.

I am now involved in synthetic fuels production but the going is slow despite the insane energy costs. I have been trying to get some nicely packaged wastewater treatment systems going in Northern Ontario recently with a company from B.C. (Terasen)but the regional political quagmire makes it really tough. This company finances and builds and runs them and leases them to the community.

Maybe the gov' should have 'bottled the politicians' and just sent water.

Related Link: http://www.emeryenergy.com
author by Terrypublication date Sat Nov 05, 2005 04:06author email tunderbar at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone 204 239-1538Report this post to the editors

Apparently the problem with the water treatment plant was that the chlorinator was broken down. Why did the Band council not call in a contractor to fix it? Is that not their responsibility to budget for the maintenance and repairs to the water treatment plant? Apparently they now have potable water from the newly repaired water treatment plant. Why was it necessary to evacuate the population at great cost.

TC

 
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