Canadian Indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier, 15, addressed hundreds of international guests at UN headquarters in Manhattan on Saturday, where she urged the global community to respect the sacredness and importance of clean water. "I've said it once, and I'll say it again: we can't eat money or drink oil," said the activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario. Peltier spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum, a platform on sustainable land use founded by UN Environment and the World Bank that's dedicated to achieving development and climate goals.
The first time Autumn Peltier noticed a boil-water advisory in a First Nations community, she was just eight years old. “I asked my mom what that meant,” Peltier, who is turning 15 this week, told CTVNews.ca by phone. “When she explained to me that our water is not safe to drink, it all hit me.” The Indigenous teen from northeastern Ontario has since been advocating for clean water in First Nations communities across the country. Peltier is in New York City this week to speak about the importance of clean water at the Global Landscape Forum at the UN.
An abrupt downturn in an already poor water-quality situation in a northwestern Ontario Indigenous community poses more of a safety risk than the federal government is willing to acknowledge, representatives of the First Nation said Wednesday as they called for help covering the cost of evacuating the community. Most of the 250 residents of the Neskantaga First Nation, a member of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, flew out of the community on the weekend after untreated water began flowing from local taps and water pressure tapered off dramatically.
Water is something most Canadians take for granted. We have so much of it, it's no wonder. Per capita, our country has the world's third-largest freshwater reserves, but yet in many Indigenous communities, water can be difficult to access, at-risk because of unreliable treatment systems, or contaminated. That's the case in Delaware First Nation, an Indigenous community of about 500 people an hour southwest of London, Ont., a place where fishing was everything 60 years ago.
“Far too often, governments in Canada have demonstrated that they place little value on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and the revitalization of their cultures and traditions,” Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada, said in a statement Thursday.
More than 40 Indigenous communities in Canada have launched guardian programs, which employ local members to monitor ecosystems and protect sensitive areas and species. At a national gathering in Vancouver this week, guardians raised alarm about environmental degradation and climate change in their territories.
Grassy Narrows First Nation has been beset with indifference for their lives and their rights by the Canadian government for five decades. From 1962 to 1970, the Dryden paper mill dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River upstream from Grassy Narrows. This polluted fish and drinking wells. The federal and provincial governments claimed as late as 2016 that the river would clean out the mercury naturally. Despite reports as early as 1984 stating government action was needed. Still nothing has been done. The Canadian government’s utter disregard for Indigenous lives is so perverse that until recently it has not allotted resources for researchers to intensively study the health impact of the mercury. Rather, the bulk of research done has been by a Japanese research team that in 2012 found at least one resident who was born with mercury poisoning and, in 2007, two children born with brain cancer and who experienced seizures.