THUNDER BAY -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it’s heartbreaking to think young people in a northern community like Nesktantaga First Nation have never not lived under a boil-water advisory.
Singh flew to the remote community on Monday to see the situation first hand, and criticized the federal government for not only breaking a 2015 election promise to end all boil-water advisories in Indigenous communities by 2020, but for extending it for five more years ahead of a widely expected federal election this fall.
Singh said he spoke to a pair of youngsters while in Neskantaga, and was told by one, a 10-year-old girl, that she was fighting for clean water for her family and her community.
“Think about that,” Singh said. “I think about what I was doing when I was 10 years old, would I ever have thought about having to fight for clean drinking water? I just turned on the tap and I got it.”
Another youngster told him residents of the community deserve to be treated like humans, not animals or sub-humans.
“We have kids that their entire lives, because this boil-water advisory, not having clean drinking water, has gone on for 26 years. This means we have kids, 15-year-olds, 20-year-olds, 24-year-olds, who have never been able to drink out of their own homes, the tap out of their own home,” Singh said.
“They don’t know what that’s like.”
There's simply no reason, he said.
Singh said the federal Liberals and Conservatives have shown in the past when there’s a will to get something done, it gets done.
He pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to spend billions at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic support big business.
“He did that without hesitation. But when it comes to Indigenous people and clean drinking water, he made a promise back in 2015 and six years later, broke that promise. Now he promises another five years. In the 21st century, with the wealth that we have, being one of the world’s largest economies, I don’t accept for a second the excuse that it could not have happened sooner,” Singh said.
“Eleven years to have clean drinking water for all Indigenous communities is not good enough.”
There are currently more than 50 boil-water advisories in Indigenous communities across Canada, about 80 fewer than when Trudeau entered office six years ago.
“It can be done, it can be fixed, it’s a matter of making it a priority. New Democrats, at all levels, provincial and federal believe it should be a priority and will work to make it done.”
Singh said a concrete plan is required, along with the resources necessary to end the advisories. Promises are no longer enough.
Singh on Tuesday will speak with evacuees of Northern Ontario wildfires, along with MPPs Sol Mamakwa and Judith Monteith-Farrell. He was also joined on Monday night by Thunder Bay-Superior North nominee Chantelle Bryson and Thunder Bay-Rainy River nominee Yuk-Sem Won.