Polluted Water Hits First Nations, but Doesn't Stop There

By Da Silva, Judy | Canadian Dimension, September-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Polluted Water Hits First Nations, but Doesn't Stop There


Da Silva, Judy, Canadian Dimension


June 19, 2006

Grassy Narrows First Nation gets a boil-water advisory from the Medical Services Environmental Health Worker for Treaty #3 First Nations. My first thought was: "I thought we were safe." To say the least, it's very inconvenient to boil water for two minutes to kill any bacteria that live in it. But if we do not boil the water, the elders, infants and children, and weak adults are susceptible to severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Two years ago, Kashechewan First Nation, a remote northern Ontario community, was in the headlines for E. coli in their water. The mainstream media gave them lots of coverage for a while, showing photos of rashes on little babies' arms, stomachs and legs, and on some adults, too. In my mind I assumed that Keshechewan First Nation was too far away ever to touch our lives--that these people were way up north and had to live in severe Third World conditions. Not us in Treaty #3 traditional territory--the land of 10,000 freshwater lakes. I felt we would never run into that problem. We are so close to urban centers--Kenora, an hour away, and Winnipeg, three hours away. This is the land of pristine lakes and streams, and we call it paradise!

Jody, Technical Services Officer of Bimose Tribal Council, says that, of the eleven Treaty #3 reserves they serve, five have new water plants. The rest have water plants from 1995 or later. Each water plant was built in accordance with standards in the year it was built. But since Indian reserves are under the federal jurisdiction, this also means federal water-quality standards--which are lower than provincial standards.

John Hummel is a longtime grassroots activist who lives in Nelson, British Columbia, in a 100-year-old stone cottage. John has been one of my mentors for the past six years. One of the things he disclosed to me is that one quarter (150) of over 600 First Nations communities across Canada live downstream from paper mills and mines. The Fraser River alone has ninety First Nations communities situated beside it. Is there a connection, here, as to why First Nations people suffer in epidemic proportions from Type 2 Diabetes? John was able to find numerous research papers done in Australia that showed Aborigines suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and its link to dioxin furans. Mostly, dioxin furans come from mill, mine and incinerator smokestacks, and there is a fallout zone on the land and water that surrounds such companies. Sometimes the fall-out zone is on the other side of the world, because of how our planet's wind currents pick up dust and carry it around the world. To check out John Hummel's "Research for Health" Project, go to www.isn.net/~network/kahnawake.html.

Water is part of the processing of many products in industry. These industries are the main polluters in the world, and they are a major reason why the water has become undrinkable and the air has become unbreathable. The Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario is located approximately 200 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation on the English Wabigoon River system. …

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