Kiiwetinoong MPP and the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic, Sol Mamakwa, continues to press Premier Doug Ford and his government for more supports for northern First Nation communities, as we head into month eight of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Communities across Kiiwetinoong have been in a crisis since before COVID-19. The pandemic has only deepened these crises. In Neskantaga First Nation, there’s been 26 years of boil water advisories. That’s 9,373 days without access to clean drinking water,” said Mamakwa, during Question Period at Queen’s Park earlier this week.

“Clean drinking water is very basic, and we need Ontario to invest in it,” added Mamakwa, who received applause from the NDP following his comments.

Mamakwa has continued to stress that the pandemic has been especially difficult for remote communities, as they don’t have strong enough healthcare resources to deal with an outbreak, and they already have to deal with overcrowding and a lack of clean water in their communities.

Northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of long-term drinking water advisories across Canada, and the federal government’s goal of ending all long-standing advisories by March 2021 wasn’t mentioned in last month’s Throne Speech.

The federal government is aware that no drinking water is certainly an issue for those who are fighting against COVID-19. Indigenous Services Canada’s COVID-19 information page recommends First Nation community members to:

“If you do not have access to running water, wash your hands in a large bowl and then throw out the water from the handwashing bowl after each individual use.”

Since COVID-19 is not known to spread through water, members can use water under a boil water advisory to wash your hands and for personal hygiene. But water under a do not use advisory is not suitable for any use, and hand sanitizer must be used instead.

In response, Kenora Rainy-River MPP and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford says Ontario remains committed to improving the quality of life for the Indigenous community across the province

“Just two years ago, this government made it a priority to reset the relationships with Indigenous communities, and to focus on things on the ground and in the community that would make a difference.”

“We have had thorough and consistent engagement with the Chiefs of Ontario, every single week. Not all of the conversations have been easy. There have been tense moments. But we are confident that we will support the incredible leadership that Indigenous leaders have shown.”

Rickford also stressed that Ontario has dedicated over $37 million in funding to address the unique challenges that Indigenous communities face in response to COVID-19.

The $37 million of funding includes:

- $16.4 million to help with distributing goods and supplies, transportation support, self-isolation, prevention and awareness, and pandemic training,

- $10 million to ensure the continuity of services offered by Indigenous social services agencies to vulnerable children, youth, adults and families during the outbreak,

- $4 million to ensure the continuity of services at remote and northern airports serving Indigenous communities,

- $7.4 million to help social services providers, charities and non-profits delivering critical housing services to Indigenous people living off-reserve,

- Over $1 million to Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Council Treaty #3 for the purchase of emergency food, household goods and baby supplies to remote and norther First Nations and service providers.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you think you may have been exposed to the virus, contact your local assessment centre or nursing station as soon as possible, and immediately self-isolate.

For more information:
Rickford details COVID-19 supports for First Nation communities
‘Our communities are in a critical situation,’ Mamakwa on COVID-19