Over the past 14 years, Andrew Brant and many others on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory have had to haul all their water home, one jug at a time.
His arms, and those of most other residents, will get a well-deserved break as the First Nation in southeastern Ontario, west of Kingston, lifted five long-term water advisories on Monday. term as they expanded connections to a new water treatment plant.
The advisories had been in place since 2008.
“It was nice to be able to shower as long as I wanted,” said Brant, who also owns a local organic coffee business and bakery. “It was nice to get out of the shower…smelling fresh and clean.”
Brant says the lifting of these water advisories has lifted a weight off the shoulders of the community, literally and figuratively.
“Accessibility to water has been the most important thing for us in terms of resources, in terms of development,” he said.
“We are able to do more things. We see different businesses flourishing.”
“Long Period of Neglect”
Chief R. Don Maracle said of the approximately 1,012 homes in the community, 786 are now connected to potable water.
“In indigenous communities there has been a long period of neglect of these issues…so the government has to spend millions of dollars to catch up,” said Maracle, who added that he had to do lobbying for the government to help build a $27.6 million water treatment plant.
For those who still do not have access to drinking water inside their homes, filling stations have been installed on the territory with the opening of the treatment plant. Prior to these stations, residents had to travel outside the reserve to purchase water in bulk.
Maracle said they continue to work to close the water access gap for the 25% of households that still do not have clean water.
Judge Brown, a young mother living on a farm in Tyendinaga, has no running water on her property.
She and her toddler have to travel for showers and water for crops and three goats.
She hopes to connect to the water supply by the time the house she is building is complete, but said it was hard to wait for something as essential to human life as clean water, d especially since there are municipalities a few minutes down the road where access to drinking water is a given.
“I know it’s coming. I’m just trying to have that patience and hope…but it’s definitely a struggle,” she said.
New 2025 deadline to end all notices
Tyendinaga is one of 20 First Nations in Ontario who still have long-term federal drinking water advisoriesmainly in the northwest.
The federal government originally set a deadline to end all advisories by March 2021, which was one of Justin Trudeau’s key campaign promises during the 2015 campaign. Now the government has set its target to 2025.
As of March 2022, a total of 131 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted and 34 are still in effect across Canada, located in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Most are in Ontario and Tyendinaga is the most easterly.
“We can bemoan, you know, how long it took, but I think we have to celebrate that these are milestone achievements,” Maracle said this week.
He said Tyendinaga expects additional federal funding for water, which the reservation plans to use to expand water lines to cover the entire community.
“I just hope the need for safe drinking water continues to be a top priority for the Government of Canada,” he said.