Ring of Fire Updates Water Crisis Weekly News Roundup

November 17-23, 2020 : Weekly News Roundup

Due the spike in COVID-19 cases in Thunder Bay, Chief Moonias requested that the feds rent out the remaining hotel rooms where the community has been housed since their evacuation from Neskantaga First Nation. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded by announced that the feds will rent out the Victoria Inn in its entirety.

Anne Scotton, Indigenous Services Ontario regional director general has been removed from her position following Chief Moonias’ call for her resignation. Scotton had sent an email to Chief Moonias indicating that the terms of reference for the third-party investigation of the consultants and engineers responsible for working on Neskantaga’s water quality issue would soon be completed and that the consultant had been selected. This email was ‘overruled,’ however, by Marc Miller who indicated that the agreement that he had reached with community representatives was that the ToR would be developed collectively with the Chief and Council, as opposed to unilaterally by the feds. Lynda Clairmont will take over Scotton’s position.

November 17, 2020 (CTV News):

‘We’re not animals’: Frustrations mount for Neskantaga First Nation as water crisis drags on

“Frustrations are mounting for more than 250 evacuees from a northwestern Ontario First Nation as a water crisis that forced them from their homes shows few signs of ending any time soon. The members of Neskantaga First Nation were transported from their homes in late October after an oily sheen was found in the Neskantaga water reservoir. Initial testing results found high levels of hydrocarbons in the drinking water. Ever since, the majority of the evacuees have been staying at a hotel more than 400 kilometres away in Thunder Bay, Ont.” Read more here…

November 18, 2020 (CTV News):

Gov’t to book entire hotel for Neskantaga First Nation evacuees to protect them against COVID-19

“The federal government plans to rent every room of a Thunder Bay, Ont. hotel where evacuees from Neskantaga First Nation have been staying for three weeks while a water crisis in their home community is being resolved. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told CTV News on Wednesday that the government intends to rent out the remaining rooms at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay to protect the evacuees from any COVID-19 exposure in the area. “We’re working with the officials to make sure we can provide that safe environment for them,” Miller said.” Read more here…

November 18, 2020 (Reuters India):

Evacuated amid COVID-19, Canadian First Nation waits for clean water

“When an oily sheen was discovered on the surface of the local water reservoir in October, Canada’s Neskantaga First Nation was forced to close off the pipes and move. Isolated in remote northern Ontario, accessible only by plane or on winter roads, nearly all 300 residents evacuated to Thunder Bay, more than 400 kilometers away, breaking the protective bubble of isolation they had tried to build during COVID-19. Weeks later, they are living in hotels, waiting for clean-up repairs and tests to confirm that the water is safe enough to go home.” Read more here…

November 19, 2020 (TB News Watch):

Neskantaga chief seeks exclusive use of hotel for protection from COVID-19

Chris Moonias calls the spike in cases in Thunder Bay ‘scary’

“The chief of Neskantaga First Nation wants exclusive use of a Thunder Bay hotel for his people until the community’s water system is fixed. Chris Moonias says the evacuees from Neskantaga are extremely worried by the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the city. “Twenty-one new cases in Thunder Bay, Ontario today. This is scary for my people. I’ve asked for exclusivity for the hotel so I can lockdown and keep my people safe,” Moonias tweeted on Tuesday.” Read more here…

November 20, 2020 (CBC):

Indigenous Services minister overrules senior bureaucrat on Neskantaga water probe

Planned probe to look into business practices behind boil-water fixes in northern Ontario

“Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has overruled a senior departmental official over the framing of an investigation into Neskantaga First Nation’s 25-year-long water crisis, CBC News has learned. Anne Scotton, the department’s Ontario regional director general, informed Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias on Thursday afternoon by email that the terms of reference for the investigation would be finalized soon, and that a consultant had been chosen to manage the third-party probe. There was a line in the attached document for the chief’s signature.

That message contradicted a commitment Miller made to Moonias that the terms of the investigation would be co-developed with the chief and council. “What we agreed on is to work together and develop the TOR [terms of reference],” Moonias told CBC News. “What I received was more of a unilateral approach, so I wasn’t really happy about that.”” Read more here…

November 20, 2020 (CKDR Dryden):

Lillian Berg students demand action

“A show of solidarity between Vermilion Bay youth and residents of Neskantaga First Nation. Grade 7 and 8 students at Lillian Berg School took to social media to offer their support for the remote northern community in Day number 32 of an evacuation due to poor water quality.

“Everyone deserves clean water. Water is sacred in Indigenous culture. The people of Neskantaga First Nation haven’t had clean water for 25 years. Having clean water is a human right. Indigenous people are human.”” Read more here…

November 22, 2020 (The Conversation):

Mining push continues despite water crisis in Neskantaga First Nation and Ontario’s Ring of Fire

“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.” Read more here…

November 23, 2020 (TB News Watch):

Federal government rents entire hotel for Neskantaga First Nation

Additional Neskantaga residents will now transfer to the Victoria Inn

“The 182-room Victoria Inn will now be booked exclusively for the use of residents of Neskantaga First Nation. More than 200 community members have been staying in the Arthur Street hotel for about a month as a result of problems with a new water treatment and distribution system.

After a request from Chief Chris Moonias was made public last week, federal Indigenous Services Ministers Marc Miller told CTV News that the government intended to rent all the hotel’s remaining rooms to further protect the evacuees from the risk of exposure to COVID-19.” Read more here…

November 23, 2020 (CBC):

Ottawa replaces federal bureaucrat working with Neskantaga First Nation during state of emergency

Chief demanded resignation of Anne Scotton, accused her of ‘paternalism’ and ‘mirroring colonialist values’

“At the community’s request, Indigenous Services Canada has replaced the top federal bureaucrat working with Neskantaga First Nation during its current state of emergency. […] The chief and council of Neskantaga sent an email to Clairmont on Monday morning calling for the immediate resignation of Scotton, citing an irrevocable loss of trust. 

In the email, Moonias accused Scotton of conducting her work counter to the basic principles of reconciliation. “Instead of working to renew any sort of respectful relationship with Indigenous people, Ms. Scotton has demonstrated paternalism in her work, mirroring colonialist values rather than reconciliation, and her involvement is causing continued harm to our people,” wrote Moonias in an email obtained by CBC News. Read more here…  

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