Neskantaga First Nation chief says residents don’t support federal drinking water regulations

Residents of some First Nations affected by unsafe water can now file claims under a settlement with the federal government, but the chief of a northwestern Ontario community says they don’t support the arrangement.

“I just want to say I don’t agree with the settlement,” said Roy Moonias, a member of the Neskantaga First Nation, who has been the subject of a drinking water advisory for nearly three decades.

“I heard the community say the same thing. They disagree.”

The settlement was signed last year, after First Nations people in communities with at least a year’s water advisory since 1995 launched a legal challenge in 2019.

The regulations provide:

  • Approximately $1.5 billion in compensation for First Nations residents affected by a lack of drinking water.
  • The creation of a $400 million First Nations Economic and Cultural Restoration Fund.
  • The creation of a First Nations advisory committee on the safety of drinking water.
  • At least $6 billion to improve access to drinking water for First Nations.

The government also renewed its commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations.

Roy Moonias said the terms of the deal were too restrictive.

Compensation is open to anyone who lived on a First Nation that was under a boil water advisory for at least one year between November 20, 2013 and June 20, 2021.

However, the age of claimants plays a role in the amount of compensation they can obtain. People born before November 20, 1995 are only eligible for compensation for the period from November 20, 2013 to June 20, 2021.

According to First Nations Drinking Water Regulations Website“there are certain legislative limitations that apply to the settlement, due to Canadian laws that limit the time adults have to bring a lawsuit after an event has occurred.”

At the press conference, Moonias said he doesn’t support the settlement because of it.

“I myself do not support the governments format,” he said. “I suffered 27 years. I suffered, my family and the whole community here, 27 years.”

However, under the terms of the settlement, Moonias said he was only eligible for compensation for six of those years.

“I just want to say that I don’t agree with the settlement,” he said. “I heard the community say the same thing. They disagree.”

Tataskweyak Cree Nation Chief Doreen Spence invited federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu to visit her community, which has been under a water advisory since 2017.

“I know that each First Nation has its own unique and different water quality and service issues,” Spence said. “The settlement agreement… promises to end all boil water advisories, and we know that won’t happen overnight.

“If this continues, for us to argue for what we want, the stumbling block is still there, because we know the feds usually dictate in terms of, ‘No, that’s what you’re going to get, that’s what you’re going to get. that’s how we’re ‘going to get rid of the boil water advisory.’ But I think that’s unacceptable.”

Boil water advisories are still in place in various First Nations communities, despite promises to end them. (Olivia Stefanovitch/CBC)

Spence said the government needs to listen to First Nations and their feedback on their drinking water needs.

Chief Wayne Moonias of Neskantaga said the water has caused health issues for residents of the community.

“We have visited homes from time to time where we have small children, toddlers, bandaged with sores and exposed to unsafe drinking water,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, and I think that’s where the path lies to look at some of these things more urgently and urgently to try to build the supports in the communities. . “

The lack of clean water for such a long time is also damaging residents’ mental health, Wayne Moonias said.

“It’s really discouraging. We are facing multiple issues with regard to access to clean water, as well as the quality of life of community members.”

Hajdu said there are 33 active long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, with up to a dozen expected to be lifted this year.

“We will continue to work with all 33 communities, and I will personally speak to the Chiefs regularly so that I understand how I, as Minister, and the Department, serve them as we work to lift these water advisories, ‘ said Hajdu.