`BROKEN PROMISES’: Manitoba First Nation leader has no faith Liberals will deliver clean drinking water 

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A band councillor in a northern and remote First Nation says that because of “broken promises” there are children growing up in his community that have never known a time when there has been access to clean drinking water.

“What’s sad is that there are young children here, and this is all they have ever known.” Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN) band councillor Nathan Neckoway said on Monday, just days before Canadians go to the polls to elect the next federal government.

“All we are asking is for the federal government to abide by their own platforms and quit breaking those promises because there is a lot of talk but when it comes to action we don’t see their full action and attention.”

Neckoway said he has been keeping a close watch on the federal election campaign leading up to the Sept. 20 election because TCN, a community that sits about 780 kilometres north of Winnipeg and is home to more than 2,000 on-reserve residents, has not had access to clean drinking water since a boil water advisory was put into effect in 2017 after major flooding in the community.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals previously promised in 2015 to end all boil water advisories in Canadian First Nations communities by March 2021, but as March came and went those promises were not kept.

Currently in Canada, according to the most recent Government of Canada statistics, there are 51 First Nation communities under boil water advisories, including two here in Manitoba, as well as 41 in Ontario, and six in Saskatchewan.

In Manitoba, TCN and Shamattawa First Nation are the two communities under advisories and Neckoway said that in his community they have no sense of when that could change.

Neckoway added that so far he has not seen much from the federal candidates that makes him believe there is any urgency to fix the clean water situation in his and other communities.

“I watched the federal debate the other night and really The NDP leader was the only one to bring it up, and what that tells me is they are just not committed to it,” Neckoway said. “I just don’t see any urgency or any commitment.”

He added the community currently has bottled water delivered and then distributed to homes by the local fire department.

“We see short cuts and bandage fixes and solutions, and that’s not right,” Neckoway said.

The community is also currently a plaintiff in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the federal government that was launched in 2019 and seeks to have access to clean drinking water recognized as a basic human right.

“We felt the lawsuit was the only step we could take to try and open the eyes of the government and get their attention,” Neckoway said.

“We have tried everything else, and community members and this council are very frustrated.”

The Winnipeg Sun has reached out to federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller for comment but has so far not received a response.

_ Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.


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