Canada a basic human right, there hasn’t

Canada contains eighteen percent of the world’s fresh surface water because of the Great Lakes and there is clean water available to almost every citizen in Canada but there are still many First Nations groups that are not able to have clean, drinking water. Even though clean water is a basic human right, there hasn’t been enough attention given to the 159 First Nation communities in Canada that do not have clean water. (HRW, 2017). The unsafe water is causing multiple different health problems, both mentally and physically. These are problems that need to be fixed and compensated for the troubles that the First Nation community has had to go through in the past couple of years without the use of clean water. The First Nation community has not been taken care of enough, as much as they should’ve been, including the fact that the Government of Canada is denying a basic human need to them. They should not have to spend so much on bottled water to just get by. They are citizens of Canada and should be treated with the same, if not more, respect that is given to the rest of the population. Clean, drinkable water is a basic human right but that is not the case for many First Nation communities. There are 159 First Nations communities that don’t have access to clean water at the moment (HRW, 2017). This is a violation of basic human rights in Canada and violates section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and section 7 of the Charter of Rights. This violates section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982 because it states that Canada has a duty to provide essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians and water is an essential public service. It also violates section 7 of the Charter of Rights because the failure to provide clean drinking water and sanitation to First Nation communities brings in large risks to the physical health and takes away from the right to life, liberty, and security of a person, stated under that section (Mitchell, Kaitlyn, 2017). This issue is also against the third, good health and well being, and sixth, clean water and sanitation, sustainable development goals, created by the UN. It is unfair and unconstitutional that the original residents of this land are being denied and rejected a basic need and a basic human right.  This country is looking over this problem and instituting more infrastructure that is causing the lack of clean water. A reason that this water may be undrinkable is because of the high levels of mercury in the water. During the 1960s and early 1970s, a chemical plant at the Reed Paper mill in Dryden, Ontario, upstream of Grassy Narrows, dumped roughly 9000 kilograms of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River. The water and fish in the river became poisonous and because fishing is a large part of First Nation culture, most residents were now having an overdose of mercury. Mercury does not go away when a person has consumed it because it passes down through generation through the placenta, which ricks both the mother and newborn child affected by the increase of mercury inside their bodies. The increase of mercury is causing large health risks to the Grassy Narrows community and has now affected almost ninety percent of the residents in which have experienced symptoms of mercury poisoning. These symptoms include neurological problems such as numbness in fingers and toes to as far as seizures and cognitive delays as well as the emotion and psychological stress of seeing the people in your community with these conditions and showing the symptoms of mercury poisoning.  (Porter, Jody. 2017) Some individuals in the community show it farther worse than other. For example, Sixty-five-year-old Steve Fobister is one of the individuals most affected by the mercury poisoning. Steve Fobister was once the reserves chief and a very experienced hunter but he now has problems with standing, eating, drinking, and talking. He often has to hold his lower jaw to calm the shaking long enough to speak. He is unable to do basic human functions because of the contaminated water but he only receives $250 a month from the Mercury Disability Board, which is the lowest amount they can give. The $250 “doesn’t even meet my nutritional needs,” said Fobister. “I can’t afford anything that would give me some level of comfort. I suffer every day.” But even then, he is one of the only people to get financial compensation. Nearly seventy-five percent of the claims sent to the board are denied. It doesn’t just affect him, it severely affects his grandchildren as well. They have difficulty with their balance, memory and concentration and suffers from extreme headaches. “They’re never going to grow up normal,” Fobister said. “They have to go to appointments in Winnipeg with a neurologist just about every month. We struggle to make those appointments. There is no help. Medical services only cover a fraction of the travel.” (Porter, Jody. 2017) Even though the Mercury Disability Board will not admit that anyone in Grassy Narrows has suffered from the effects of mercury poisoning, there are people in the community who have passed away because of it. Calvin Ackabee-Kokopenace died in 2014 because of mercury poisoning. This also caused the death of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace death, who allegedly committed suicide after her brother passed away. This is releasing warning bells to the community because the physiological and mental impact to the members of the reserve, even if they were born after the initial water contamination. “I saw one kid that died in agony not so long ago. They said that he had neurological problems and he died in a very sad way,” Fobister said. “We seem to have forgotten that. We seem to be following the money trail now.” They still do not safe, drinkable tap water in most homes in Grassy Narrows. (Porter, Jody. 2017) Grassy Narrows isn’t the only one affected by this problem. A mere thirty minutes away from Peterborough, Curve Lake First Nations don’t have access to clean water. Every week, they are told that they have to boil their water to insure that it is safe to drink. It has been in this condition for over 10 years. The reserve sits on a peninsula surrounded by lake water, which is the source of the problem. The lake water is very close to the groundwater, to the point that it’s affecting it. Curve Lake has been negotiating with the government for over 10 years because of the financial problem for a water treatment plant. The last federal budget promised 2 billion dollars to build the First Nation water treatment plants. Curve Lake needs $25 million for their filtration plant. (nurun, 2016). They could raise money for a design which would cost about $1 million. But they’d need to work with the federal government to ensure they’ve met Ottawa’s standards for a water treatment plant. (Kovach, Joelle, 2017)This isn’t just happening in Curve Lake; other First Nation reserves are experiencing situation similar to theirs. Kashechewan is a Cree First Nations community that is about 10 kilometres upstream from James Bay. They had a new water treatment plant built in 1995 to replace the old one that had been very heavily damaged. But the new water treatment plant was built too small and couldn’t handle the growth of the community. The water receiving pipe for the new plant was built downstream from the community’s sewage bay, and the movements from the James Bay pushed the dirty water back and forth into the pipe. This dirty water is causing medical problems for the people living in Kashechewan. “Half the people in the community are infected with skin rashes, all different kinds.” Josephine Wesley said. (CBCnews, 2013). In October of 2005, high E. coli levels were found in the reserve’s drinking water and chlorine levels had to be increased. This caused skin problems that were already apparent to increase. Almost a quarter of the communities were airlifted to Sudbury, Timmins, and Cochrane and another 250 were taken to Ottawa. This evacuation cost about $16 million. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated that the people who had been evacuated wouldn’t be returned to Kashechewan until they are healthy and would be able have clean water available to them. He didn’t say anything about how long it would take for everyone to get home. (CBCnews, 2013)This is also happening to the community of Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton has been given orders by Health Canada not to drink, bathe or even wash clothes in the water, saying that it shows that there are large concentrations of manganese and iron in the drinking water that exceed Canada’s guidelines for drinking water quality. “I was drinking water from the tap until last night. I was told it was safe to drink. I personally am very, very angry. I’m angry, like, what are they trying to do to us?” Bernadette Marshall said, “There are children suffering skin abrasions, like different problems with their skin, stomach problems, there is something definitely wrong.” (Weeks, Joan, 2017) Other communities are receiving water that is contaminated by coliform, Trihalomethanes, which is cancer-causing and uranium. Some of which is natural but some of it is likely a result of the poor wastewater management that’s been going on and off the reserves. The consumption of these contaminants can have health impacts such as gastrointestinal disorders and an increased risk of cancer. (HRW, 2017). This is also a large problem to diabetes patients, as it is more common among Native people but mobile dialysis clinics that serve rural areas can’t operate because they require clean water. (nurun, 2016).Investigating the contaminants in the water and sending a notice to tell the residents that they should not be drinking or using the water is a drinking water advisory. There are three different types of drinking water advisories. The three are: boil water advisories, do not consume advisories and do not use advisories. There are currently 71 long-term drinking water advisories, meaning that the advisory has been put in place for more than a year and 35 short-term drinking water advisories, which means there was a temporary water quality issue on a specific water system. In November of 2015, the Canadian government stated that they would end long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by March of 2021 (Canada, Health, 2018). The largest drinking advisory is in the Neskantaga First Nation community and they have been without safe and clean tap water for 22 years, since 1995.  (Porter, Jody. 2017) It does take a while for a drinking water advisory to go out though. In an Anishinabe community in Quebec, they had found traces of uranium in their drinking water in 1993 but a drinking water advisory hadn’t been placed until 1999. (Rieger, Sarah, 2017) These drinking water advisories have been put in place by the Canadian Government, but they have not been giving regular updates and checkups on the problems with the water. The federal government had been investigated this problem since 1977 and has gotten multiple funds to bring clean water to the reserves. (HRW, 2017). On March 22, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his governmental budget, with funds to address the infrastructure in First Nations communities. With nearly $4.6 billion that is going to be invested in infrastructure in Indigenous communities in the next five years, including water and wastewater systems and to ensure proper operation and maintenance, with so far, $275.7 million of funding that has been given to 201 different water and wastewater initiatives. There are 29 projects that are addressing 44 long-term drinking water advisories in 28 communities. With a total of 159 communities, more than 196,000 people will benefit from these investments and there is a new system that will dismiss ten drinking water advisories that have been in place for more than 12 years. It also included $141.7 million over five years to improve the drinking water monitoring and testing on the reserves. So hopefully, by the end of the five years, all the First Nations communities and reserves will have access to clean, drinking water. (Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, 2017) But there has also been a critique of the Liberal government and how they are handling this problem. Since November of 2015, 18 drinking water advisories have been lifted but 12 have also been added. “In my view that’s not fast enough,” said NDP Indigenous affairs critic Romeo Saganash. “They’ve been here for a year and a half, almost. And at that race and that pace, I don’t think we will get to the finish line with the remaining three and a half years.” Conservative Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod agreed, including the fact that the Harper government spent more on Indigenous water. It provided more than $3 billion over eight years for its water action plan. “They’re not spending as much money as we did to solve a very important problem. And I don’t actually think they’re going to get the job done without significant dollar investment and significant change in how they do it,” said McLeod. Many First Nations communities complain that it takes too long — from five to 10 years — to solve drinking water problems (McDiarmid, Margo, 2017). In conclusion, it is unfair and unconstitutional that many First Nation communities don’t have access to clean water. It is a violation of basic human rights and of the basic human needs. This problem is also a very large health concern to the residents, both physically and mentally. But it is comforting to find out that the First Nation communities are getting the help and attention that they need and deserve and are not being dismissed anymore. If the Canadian Government can keep up with their plan, then there is not a reason to not be hopeful for the future but there should be some way to compensate for the troubles and hardships that the community has gone through. It is not enough for the Government to just do the bare minimum and to only get their clean water back, there should be a financial compensation to the families affected by this problem as well as social compensation by listening and treating the communities with respect as if to not create another large problem like this again. If there had been more attention to the problem years ago than this wouldn’t have escalated as far as it is but if the Canadian Government decides to include a social or financial compensation than they can get off on the right foot with the First Nation communities. It is time to stop the injustices that the First Nations communities are facing.