Archive | Aboriginal and Inuit Non-Mining Issues

OPINION: Canada needs to dig deep and find the national will to fix the water crisis – by Tanya Talaga (Globe and Mail – December 4, 2020)

The last time I saw Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias was during a visit to his community, 430 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. I had just toured Neskantaga’s broken-down water filtration plant, which was in need of a new 600-pound pump.

Engineers and work crews were busy all along the shores of Attawapiskat Lake, installing the pump in an effort to resolve the longest boil-water advisory of any reserve in Canada.

Almost the entire community, meanwhile, had been evacuated to Thunder Bay. A few kind souls stayed behind to look after the dogs. Continue Reading →

Thunder Bay Indigenous Population Far Larger Than Thought? – by James Murray ( – November 30, 2020)

Thunder Bay – Data released from a survey focused on Indigenous adults’ and children’s experiences with the health care system in Thunder Bay show communities deeply rooted in their cultural traditions and identities, while facing several systemic barriers that adversely impact their health and wellbeing.

The survey found that the size of the Indigenous population in the Thunder Bay CMA is far larger than the previous figures released by Census Canada. The survey results summarized in a set fact sheets, calculated the size of the FNIM adult population of Thunder Bay to be 29,778 (estimated range is 23,080-42,641).

These survey number are more than three times higher than the FNIM population size estimate of 9,780 reported by the 2016 census, which most FNIM in Thunder Bay reported they did not complete. Also highlighted are the strong ties that FNIM peoples in Thunder Bay have to their histories, traditions, and cultural identities. Continue Reading →

Stuck in a hotel during a Christmas pandemic, Neskantaga members wait for water crisis to end – by Olivia Stefanovich (CBC New Politics – December 2, 2020)

Nine-year-old Bedahbun ‘Bee’ Moonias can’t bring herself to drink the running water in her Thunder Bay, Ont., hotel room. “Since we can’t drink the tap water back in Neskantaga, I’m scared to use the tap water here to drink it,” Moonias said. “So I use water bottles.”

Moonias has spent her whole life worrying about the water flowing from her faucets back home in Neskantaga First Nation, a remote fly-in Ontario community about 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Neskantaga has the longest-duration boil water advisory of any reserve in the country — 25 years and counting. “Sometimes, I feel like we don’t exist,” Moonias said. “Like, nobody knows that we don’t have no clean water. Like, we’re just ghosts and we’re just put in a drawer, in a box.” Continue Reading →

Ottawa replaces federal bureaucrat working with Neskantaga First Nation during state of emergency – by Olivia Stefanovich (CBC News – November 23, 2020)

Indigenous Services Canada has replaced the top federal bureaucrat working with Neskantaga First Nation, which has the longest boil water advisory in the country, during its current state of emergency at the community’s request.

Assistant deputy minister Joanne Wilkinson has taken over from Ontario regional director general Anne Scotton as the liaison between department officials and Neskantaga, a fly-in community about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

“Joanne has significant experience in regional operations and is well placed to leverage the resources necessary to complete this work,” senior assistant deputy minister Lynda Clairmont wrote in an email to Chief Chris Moonias late Monday. Continue Reading →

Feds invest $841k to support climate change adaptation in northern Indigenous communities – by Colleen Romaniuk (Sudbury Star – November 13, 2020)

The federal government will invest more than $841,000 in a project that will help Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario deal with climate change.

Co-led by Laurentian University, Grand Council Treaty 3, and the Tribal Councils of Mushkegowuk, Matawa, Nokiiwin, Shibogama, and Keewaytinook Okimakanak, the project aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration in Far North communities.

Partners have been engaging in knowledge-sharing workshops, sharing tools, and establishing an Indigenous regional knowledge exchange network as part of the project. Continue Reading →

Left behind in Neskantaga and exiled in Thunder Bay, a nation still waits for clean water at home – by Willow Fiddler (Globe and Mail – November 12, 2020)

On a table in the corner of the banquet room of a Thunder Bay hotel sits a collection of posters with hand-written messages like “Shame on you #Trudeau” and “We deserve clean water.” They were drawn by children from Neskantaga First Nation, pleading for safe, clean tap water to drink – a basic human right no one under the age of 25 has had in the remote Northern Ontario community.

Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias says if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d be on his way to Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park with the posters to show the governments how living under the longest-standing boil water advisory in the country has affected his community.

Residents have to rely on bottled water for drinking. For cooking and bathing, they have to fill up jugs and pails at an outdoor reverse-osmosis system that sits in a shed up a hill. Continue Reading →


THUNDER BAY, ON – The nine (9) First Nations making up the Matawa Chiefs Council today offered their support for Neskantaga First Nation as they experience another large blow to their water treatment and distribution system amid a 26-year lack of clean drinking water crisis and in a global pandemic.

They offer their support for the extraordinary measures Neskantaga First Nation have had to take to ensure the safety of their citizens including an evacuation to Thunder Bay for the second time within the span of 12 months (first one in September 2019) due to unsafe drinking water, and this time, a complete water outage, in their community.

A majority of the First Nations of the Matawa Chiefs Council, both road-access and remote, have experienced similar issues with regards to access to clean drinking water. With the exception of two (2) First Nations who have the opportunity to access municipal water treatment systems—all have experienced either ‘boil water’ or ‘do not consume’ advisories, for a lengthy period of time at some point in history. Continue Reading →

Mining consultations continue even as water stops flowing for Neskantaga First Nation – by Jody Porter (CBC News Thunder Bay – October 28, 2020)

Consultation on the environmental assessment for a road to mineral deposit in northern Ontario will proceed even as one of the First Nations affected has been emptied out by an emergency.

Neskantaga First Nation was evacuated last week after the community water supply was shut down when an oily substance was discovered in the reservoir. Nearly all of its 300 residents are staying in hotels, about 450 kilometres away, in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Meanwhile, consultations on the terms of reference that will set the stage for environmental assessment on a mining supply road through Neskantaga’s traditional territory continue. Ontario has a constitutional duty to consult First Nations when their treaty rights may be impacted. Continue Reading →

OPINION: Troubled water: The slow drip of change in Attawapiskat is not and has never been enough – by Adrian Sutherland (Globe and Mail – July 30, 2020)

Adrian Sutherland is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and the frontman and founder of roots-rock band Midnight Shine. He lives in Attawapiskat, on the remote coast of the James Bay.

It’s been one year since the water contamination crisis in my home community of Attawapiskat.

In July, 2019, the Attawapiskat Band Council notified residents that our tap water had tested positive for potentially harmful levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) – byproducts of the disinfection process created when chlorine interacts with high levels of organic materials.

We were told not to bathe in it, not to cook with it and not to inhale vapours from it. A state of emergency was declared. This is our tap water that flows into our houses. It’s important to note we do not drink from our taps – and never have. Continue Reading →

Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Celia Echum won back land owed to her community – by Willow Fiddler (Globe and Mail – June 18, 2020)

At 5 foot 2, Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Celia Echum was below average in height. But despite her diminutive size, she held enormous influence in her community.

In 2016, Ms. Echum initiated a claim seeking compensation for land that Ginoogaming was entitled to under Treaty No. 9 but did not receive. Once settled, the claim will see the Anishinaabe community in northwestern Ontario gain almost 25 per cent more land.

Peter Rasevych, one of Ms. Echum’s nephews from Ginoogaming, was a boy when his Aunty Celia, as she was known to many, began serving the people of Ginoogaming. She received her community health representative (CHR) certificate from Laurentian University in the late 1970s. Continue Reading →

Court rules in favour of Robinson Huron Treaty beneficiaries – by James Hopkin (Soo Today – June 28, 2020)

Justice Patricia Hennessey has ruled in favour of Robinson Huron Treaty beneficiaries in the second phase of a lawsuit launched by 21 First Nations against the federal and provincial governments over treaty annuity payments.

Hennessy ruled in December 2018 during phase one of the hearings that both Canada and Ontario had failed to live up to its obligations to increase annuity payments over time as mineral and forestry resources were being developed. The annual treaty payment – which currently sees each beneficiary receive $4 annually – hasn’t increased since 1874.

“This century-old dispute between the federal and provincial Crowns is one of the reasons why no increase has been made to the annuities for over 150 years,” said Hennessy in the phase two decision. Continue Reading →

A remote First Nation prepares for its most daunting challenge: limiting the spread of coronavirus – by Marcus Gee (Globe and Mail – April 6, 2020)

First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Eabametoong First Nation, which has limited resources to deal with an outbreak

Isolation has so far protected many of Canada’s remote Indigenous communities from the coronavirus. Far from the big cities where the virus is taking the heaviest toll, they have largely been able to shield themselves from its spread. But isolation is also their greatest weakness. If the virus gets in, they are a long way from help. With crowded households, many residents in poor health and limited medical facilities, they could be devastated.

Few people know this better than Harvey Yesno. The veteran Indigenous leader from Eabametoong First Nation in Northern Ontario has spent his long career trying to build up his community and others like it. Conditions are still a long way from where he would like them to be. So, while hoping for the best, he is bracing for the worst.

“We have done everything we can to get ready for the worst-case scenario with the facilities we have, which is not very much,” he said on Friday. Eabametoong imposed a lockdown on April 1, limiting movement in and out of the community of 1,600, located 360 kilometres by air from the nearest city, Thunder Bay. Continue Reading →

EDITORIAL: The rumours of reconciliation’s death are greatly exaggerated (Globe and Mail – February 27, 2020)

The use of police in British Columbia and Ontario to clear illegal blockades, part of a broader dispute over a pipeline that runs through disputed Indigenous territory, has led to an outbreak of people declaring that “reconciliation is dead.”

That’s not surprising. The Trudeau government turned “reconciliation” into a political slogan; it now finds it thrown back in its face anytime it, or anyone else, makes a decision that doesn’t jibe with the expectations of Indigenous leaders – or non-Indigenous activists claiming to act on behalf of Indigenous Canadians.

Live by the ill-defined word, die by the ill-defined word. What does reconciliation look like? How is it measured? How will we know when it has been achieved? The Liberals lifted the word from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but beyond a promise of a “renewed nation-to-nation relationship,” they never defined their terms. Continue Reading →

Canada’s future is going down the drain amid destructive federal-provincial feud – by John Ivison (National Post – February 24, 2020)

“Provincial and federal governments have their differences but if
their focus remains on one another, there will soon be no oilpatch
to phase out – and no money to pay for poverty-reduction. Much more
of this and Venezuela is going to look like an attractive investment alternative.”

As Canada goes down the drain, its political leaders are arguing about the size of the plug-hole.

The Alberta Court of Appeal decision, which rules that the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional and erodes provincial jurisdiction, is merely the latest blow to Canada’s brand as a safe and reliable investment haven.

Why would any sentient investor put money into energy projects in a country where environmental policy is so erratic? Justin Trudeau’s political opponents were quick to exploit the decision by Teck Resources to shelve the giant Frontier oil sands project. Continue Reading →

OPINION: The ‘iron road’ that brought ruin and death – by Stephen Maher (MACLEAN’S Magazine – February 17, 2020)

As tempers flare over rail protests and talk of the rule of law, consider the history of the CPR

Ask Canadians to describe their country and they talk about public health care and hockey, military valour on European battlefields, peacekeeping and multiculturalism.

But most industrialized countries have public health care, some better than ours. Lots of countries play hockey. Most societies have stories they tell themselves about military glory. Many countries do more to keep the peace around the world than we do.

If you were to describe this country to someone who had never heard of it, it would be accurate to describe Canada as a country built around a railway—the Canadian Pacific Railway—on land taken by force from Indigenous people. Continue Reading →