After evacuating twice over tainted water, Neskantaga residents plan their return home – by Olivia Stefanovich (CBC News Politics – December 17, 2020)

Members of a First Nation that has been under a boil-water advisory for longer than any other in Canada are hoping to return home before Christmas to clean running water for the first time in 25 years.

Neskantaga, accessible only by air and an ice road in winter, sits about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont. — where nearly 300 of its members have been living in a hotel since an oily sheen in the reserve’s reservoir on Oct. 19 triggered their evacuation.

Now, final tests are taking place to determine whether Neskantaga’s water is safe enough for the community to use, weeks after members originally were scheduled to fly back and two years after the reserve’s water treatment plant was supposed to start producing clean drinking water.

The federal government is finalizing plans for the community to fly back as early as Friday. Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias said that even if the tests conclude the water is safe for drinking, he’s not prepared yet to lift the boil-water advisory. Residents have been using bottled water since 1995.

“Probably not. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. Moonias said the community’s perpetual crisis is the result not only of faulty machinery but of a bureaucracy that maintains the status quo of misery and marginalization in First Nations.

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