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Marten Falls First Nation, a remote reserve that’s been under a boil-water advisory since 2005, relies on water bottles flown in by the government.
OTTAWA—The Conservative government has spent at least $2 million flying bottled water to a small aboriginal community in northern Ontario that has been without its own source of drinkable water for a decade.
“All of our landfill is filled with plastic bottles,” Linda Moonias, the band manager of Marten Falls First Nation, a fly-in reserve about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., said in a telephone interview Friday.
“It’s totally ludicrous,” said Bruce Achneepineskum, the interim chief of the reserve near the proposed Ring of Fire mining development.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has been reimbursing Marten Falls for the cost of sending bottled water from Thunder Bay by airplane since Health Canada issued a boil-water advisory for the remote community of about 335 people on July 18, 2005.
The department provided $2.13 million to Marten Falls to buy and transport bottled water between the fiscal years 2005-06 and 2013-14, according to a September response to an order paper question by NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay).
Health Canada recommends a daily ration of 1.5 litres per adult and one litre per child, according to that response. A letter one of its officials sent to Marten Falls last May advised the band administration to provide mothers with extra bottled water to bathe their babies, who are at risk of becoming sick if they ingest bacteria from the unsafe tap water.
That ration formula does not take into account the teachers, nurses and consultants who live in the community for months at a time, who also need water and therefore further stretch the supply, Moonias said.
Marten Falls has to pay for the bottled water and its transportation up front, Moonias said, which can cost up to $40,000 a month, and reimbursement happens slowly.
“We haven’t seen a penny of the bottled-water expenses for this whole fiscal year (ending March 31),” said Moonias.
“That affects our cash flow in terms of keeping our programs running and then we are constantly shifting this around and that around, sometimes just to keep our basic programming running.”
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