Cold irony has outdone Canada's 150 year anniversary. While the nation guts out some US$385 million to commemorate its birthday, more than a hundred communities continue with drinking water advisories in place.
Metro News reports that, as of June 29, a total of 153 water advisories, the overwhelming majority of which are located in First Nation communities, are listed on Canada's federal government and British Columbia's First Nations Health Authority websites.
Neskatanga First Nation is home to the oldest boil water advisory in Canada. It's been in place for 8,184 days (since February 1, 1995).
Also celebrating an anniversary this year is the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. It's been 20 long years since boil water advisories have been in place in their indigenous community.
Chief Erwin Redsky, a community leader, lamented, “It's mind-boggling, it's not right. Every Canadian should enjoy clean drinking water.”
Redsky argues that a portion of the funds used to celebrate a rich country's 150th birthday should have, instead, gone to struggling indigenous communities that lack clean water. The “day will come when just the basic human right is met and there will be reason at that point to celebrate,” he said.
Several other First Nation communities including the Kinonjeoshtegon and Pinaymootang, located in Manitoba, have multiple water advisories. There, 15 boil water and do not consume advisories are listed according to Metro News.
Peter Huck, a professor at the University of Waterloo and research chair in water treatment, pointed out that technological advances may provide solutions to unsafe drinking water in indigenous communities. However, he emphasized that many First Nations are hesitant to rely on “the addition of chlorine” to their water.