Dear Prime Minister,
I am fortunate to be among the many Canadians that have easy and unlimited access to clean and safe drinking water.
My luxury is not shared by all. Many Canadians do not have what all Canadians ought to have.
On February 1 of this year, Neskantaga Community in Ontario celebrated its 22nd anniversary of having a boil-water advisory.
That advisory’s existence has been longer than my own.
The water issues in Indigenous communities and in isolated locales are disturbing. These communities have housing, health and water conditions that, in our land of abundance, rival the conditions of a third world.
It’s unacceptable. We can’t be global leaders of equality or generosity if we do not maintain within our own borders what we seek to implement in others.
I recently read an article where you are quoted as saying, “There is no relationship more important to our government than the one with Indigenous Peoples. We are committed to a renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-Crown, and government-to-government relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”
In 2010, the UN recognized water as a human right. As such, if we are committed to a relationship based on recognition of rights, then more needs to be done on upholding the right to water in Indigenous communities.
A fundamental human right and public health hang in the balance.
There have been promises to end this reality.
“Canada has committed to end long-term drinking-water advisories (DWAs) on public systems on reserves within five years. This commitment started in 2016,” says the Government of Canada website, quoting one such promise.
The same website tells me that as of February 28, 2017 there are still 97 long-term DWAs and 29 short-term DWAs. That’s 126 DWAs and this list does not include British Columba First Nations or the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
The numbers are sorrowing and angering. What I want to do is personally fix their problems.
But I’m not an engineer, millionaire, or head of the Canadian government. So, because of what I am, a platform-less person of modest presence, I have three options:
- Complain – the easiest but least constructive option.
- Mobilize resources to make a change, but frankly that’s not my job – that’s yours.
- Point my finger at everything and everyone that is to blame – again, easy but still not constructive.
Solving the problem, from the sidelines, is simple: build sustainable infrastructure using affordable technology that takes healthy outcomes into consideration.
And do it now.
The reality is of course more complex than that and I do not claim to be any sort of expert, but here’s what I know:
- Not everything needs to be a five-year long project because not everything can wait another five years. Aren’t there smaller projects that can be implemented and provide fast and effective results?
- There are new technologies out there that are better – better for people and better for the environment. Why aren’t they being used?
- The technologies of the past are not the technologies that we should be taking with us into the future. Abandoned infrastructure stands as a testament to the ineffectiveness of the old methods while current studies and projects prove there are alternative and current solutions.
If everything that I know is true, why aren’t these technologies being fast-tracked to pilot more efficient and healthy water solutions? And if it works in Indigenous communities, there should be nothing stopping it from working for all Canadians, and extending past our borders.
If the way is there, all that’s left is the will. And that, with respect, is also up to you.
Can we talk?
The Young Idealist