Ring of Fire Updates Weekly News Roundup

November 10-16, 2020 : Weekly News Roundup

Three weeks after 271 residents of the community of Neskantaga were evacuated due to contaminated water, the federal Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller, is moving forward with the First Nation’s request to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the consultants and engineering firms hired to fix the water quality issue in  the community.

Approximately twenty Neskantaga First Nation youth protested outside of Collier Project Leaders Thunder Bay office calling for action on the contaminated water crisis. Posters made by children from the community denounced the inaction of the government, stating “Shame on you #Trudeau” and “We deserve clean water.” Chief Moonias was told that the return to the community will happen on December 2.

Meanwhile, back in Neskantaga, despite COVID health and safety protocols, one of the contractors working on the water treatment facility tested positive for COVID-19; contact tracing is underway.

November 10, 2020 (TB News Watch):

‘We just want to go home’: Neskantaga youth protest water crisis

Neskantaga youth held a protest outside the Thunder Bay Collier Project Leaders office demanding action on the ongoing water crisis

“Lyndon Sakanee, a 12-year-old boy from Neskantaga First Nation, could not hold his tears back when talking about how much he misses his dog. “I miss my dog. A lot,” he said. Lyndon was among more than 20 youth from Neskantaga First Nation who held a demonstration outside of Collier Project Leaders Thunder Bay office on Tuesday demanding action on the ongoing water crisis in their home community, saying they just want to go home.

“We’re not animals. We’re not things. We’re human,” Lyndon said. “We need our water to survive. I wanted to help our community.”” Read more here…

November 10, 2020 (Dryden Now):

Mamakwa fights to ‘end a quarter century of neglect’ in Neskantaga

“It’s been 23 days since the remaining members of Neskantaga First Nation have had access to water from their taps, on top of over 25 years since the water’s been safe to drink. Chief Chris Moonias says there’s still no date on when the 271 evacuated community members will be able to return to Neskantaga, and they’re still staying in Thunder Bay hotels. The evacuation was caused by a shutdown of the community’s water treatment plant last month, as dangerous hydrocarbons were found within the system, as well as a number of leaks. This also caused the shutdown of their school and nursing station.” Read more here…

November 11, 2020 (CBC):

Ottawa to probe contractors hired to fix longest-standing boil water advisory

Investigation may broaden to include other First Nations on long-term advisories

“Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is preparing to launch a third-party investigation into the business practices of consultants and engineering companies hired to end Canada’s longest-standing boil water advisory — a probe that could extend to other communities, CBC News has learned. Officials from Indigenous Services Canada have reached out to the chief and council of Neskantaga First Nation, located approximately 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay., Ont., and its tribal council to schedule a meeting next week to develop the terms of reference.” Read more here…

November 11, 2020 (The Globe and Mail):

Left behind in Neskantaga and exiled in Thunder Bay, a nation still waits for clean water at home

It’s been weeks since a First Nation in Northern Ontario evacuated all but a few people due to contaminated water, and the repair job is racing against the seasons so residents can come home before winter sets in. Neskantaga is also pressing Ottawa to address long-term problems so they never have to do this again.

“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.” Read more here…

November 12, 2020 (Northern Ontario Business):

Ottawa wants you to wade in on the Ring of Fire environmental assessment

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada solicits public feedback to help draft regional impact study’s terms of reference

“Ottawa is inviting public feedback for how its new regional assessment process for the Ring of Fire should take shape. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (formerly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) is inviting individuals, communities, and organizations to help them draft the terms of reference for this upcoming comprehensive study in the James Bay region. They want stakeholder input on what should be the particular areas of focus in the assessment of the mineral-rich region slated for mine development as early as 2025.” Read more here…

November 12, 2020 (Global News):

Chief says Neskantaga community ‘has had enough’: VIDEO

“This week, Ottawa agreed to investigate the role of construction and engineering companies in the current water crisis in the remote Ontario First Nation, which has been on a boiled water advisory for more than 25 years.” Watch here…

November 12, 2020 (Global News):

Feds pledge to fix Neskantaga First Nation’s long-standing water crisis: VIDEO

“The Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario has endured dirty water for decades. Now Ottawa is promising things will be cleaned up in December, but as Mike Le Couteur reports, residents are skeptical, and it’s a promise they’ve heard before.” Watch here…

November 12, 2020 (Global News):

The Ontario First Nation has been under a boil water advisory for 25 years. Now Ottawa is investigating.

“Ottawa has agreed to investigate the role of construction and engineering companies in the current water crisis in a remote Ontario First Nation, but the chief of Neskantaga First Nation said his residents will have to wait another three weeks to return home and will not be going back to clean drinking water. Late last week, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) agreed to the community’s demand for an “immediate investigation” into the business practice of companies that worked on the water treatment system in Neskantaga — a community that’s been under a water boil advisory since 1995. An ISC spokesperson said “the scope of work for the investigation” is still being discussed with the First Nation’s chief and council and could expand to other communities.” Read more here…

November 12, 2020 (APTN):

Neskantaga evacuees to return home in December but still won’t have access to clean drinking water

“Late last week the federal government agreed to the community’s demand for an “immediate investigation” into the conduct of contractors and engineering companies that worked on upgrading the community’s new water treatment system – a project that was to eliminate the need for boiling water. “I’ve just given a report yesterday that repatriation will not happen until Dec. 2, ” said Chris Moonias, chief of Neskantaga First Nation, but said when community members do return it will be to a do not consume advisory which means water can only be used for things like flushing toilets and doing laundry. Do not consume advisories are actually worse than a boil water advisory because it means whatever is contaminating the water, can’t be boiled out. “It’s not acceptable to me at all. I’m not going to settle for that,” said Moonias.” Read more here…

November 13, 2020 (Global News):

Neskantaga First Nation reports first coronavirus case amid tainted water crisis

“A First Nations community in Northern Ontario that was recently evacuated amid a tainted water crisis has reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, its chief confirmed Friday. In a tweet, Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias said that he was recently informed of a positive case of COVID-19 involving a contractor working in the community.” Read more here…

November 14, 2020 (TB News Watch):

Neskantaga contractor tests positive for COVID-19

Chief Chris Moonias announced the news Friday, saying there should be little risk to community members

“A contractor performing work in Neskantaga First Nation, which recently evacuated over contamination of its water supply, has tested positive for COVID-19. Chief Chris Moonias made the announcement in a letter posted to his social media accounts Friday evening, informing community members of the news “with a heavy heart.” However, Moonias said there should be little risk to community members, given protocols intended to keep contractors separate from residents.” Read more here…

November 16, 2020 (CBC):

Neskantaga pandemic protocols helped stop spread of COVID-19, chief says

Leadership is still learning from the experience of having a contractor test positive, Chris Moonias said

“The chief of Neskantaga First Nation said Sunday that his community’s pandemic plan worked to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after a contractor sent to help fix the First Nation’s water supply tested positive for the virus. The contractor was tested for COVID-19 upon entering the community on Nov. 10, in accordance with its pandemic protocols, Chief Chris Moonias said. He left the community as soon as he tested positive, he added.” Read more here…

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