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Water ‘source of fear’ for native communities, report says

Posted by mhudema on May 22, 2008

Water ‘source of fear’ for native communities, report says

Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008

David Friday unloads bottled water at the airport on Kashechewan Reserve in northern Ontario.

Tyler Anderson/National PostDavid Friday unloads bottled water at the airport on Kashechewan Reserve in northern Ontario.

OTTAWA — Water quality in aboriginal communities and reserves across the country has reached a “boiling point,” warns a new report released Thursday by the Polaris Institute, the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Labour Congress.

“The deplorable conditions that First Nation people live in would not be accepted in any other part of the country,” the report states. The report was co-authored by Andrea Harden and Holly Levaillant from the Polaris Institute.

“For many, water has become a source of fear, and people have good reason to believe that what comes out of their taps may be making them sick. What is happening should be considered a violation of fundamental human rights in this country.”

The report, which focused on six First Nations communities across the country — Landsdowne House and Pikangikum in Ontario, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, Yellow Quill First Nation in Saskatchewan, Fort Chipewyan in Alberta, and LittleSalmon Carmacks in the Yukon territory — says that the situation has reached a crisis for many local residents.

About 100 aboriginal communities across the country remained on drinking water advisories as of last month without adequate response from the federal government, according to the report.

“While $330-million in the 2008 budget was allocated to safe drinking water in First Nations communities over two years, the current government has backed away from the Kelowna Accord that dedicated $5.1 billion to improving the socio-economic conditions and access to water for aboriginal people,” says the report. “Although the accord would not have closed the gap between the standard of living for First Nations and non-aboriginals in Canada, it was a sign of progress.”

The report also raises concerns about the impact of development in Alberta’s oilsands on water quality and the environment for the Fort Chipewyan community where a local physician, John O’Connor, was the subject of a complaint from the federal and provincial governments when he raised alarms about an outbreak of a rare form of cancer.

Report available online — http://www.polarisinstitute.org/boiling_point

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