David Peerla, advisor to the Neskantaga First Nation, co-authored this article.
Dayna Nadine Scott is the York Research Chair in Environmental Law & Justice in the Green Economy, York University, Canada.
Deborah Cowen is the Professor, Geography and Planning, University of Toronto.
The infrastructure crises that have plagued Neskantaga First Nation for decades have reached a terrifying breaking point. On Oct. 21, the northern Anishinaabe community’s ailing water systems once again failed completely, and this time in the context of the global coronavirus pandemic.
With no running water flowing to homes, most of those living in the remote fly-in community were again forced to evacuate. Now a contractor working on repairing the water system has tested positive for COVID-19.
Residents are waiting in hotel rooms in Thunder Bay, worried about the rising number of positive cases around them.
But this was the second such mass emergency exodus in 12 months. Life-threatening public health crises underpinned by infrastructure failure has become painfully routine in Neskantaga. In fact, this is just one in a long series of community emergencies, including a 26-year-long boil-water advisory — the longest in the country.
While life for residents of Neskantaga has ground to a halt, the priorities of the mining industry appear to be gaining ground on their territory.