Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Third Solitude

I swear the moon must be blue or pigs are now flying because for once the only fault I can find with the Toronto Star editorial is that the language isn’t strong enough.
Although the federal government knew at least two years ago that Kashechewan was another Walkerton water tragedy just waiting to happen, it did nothing to stop it.

Despite a warning from the Ontario Clean Water Agency in 2003 that the intake pipe for the reserve's water treatment plant was just downstream from the lagoon where the community's raw sewage goes, Ottawa failed to remove the threat.

Now Kashechewan's water is contaminated with the same deadly E. coli bacteria that devastated Walkerton. But unlike Walkerton, Ottawa — not Queen's Park — bears responsibility for the conditions because it is responsible for First Nations natives living on reserves.

Yet even as McGuinty took the initiative to evacuate the residents of Kashechewan, federal Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott made excuses for his appalling neglect. Claiming Ottawa was "working on a response to deal with what is a long-standing, serious problem," Scott said, "unfortunately, the events of last weekend simply overtook that work."

Balderdash. Ottawa had two years to fix the problem and failed to do so. Having shown himself to be incompetent or, even worse, indifferent to the plight of native Canadians, Scott should resign. If he refuses, then Paul Martin should dump him.

Kashechewan is not the only native community with unsafe water. There are 150 native communities in Canada where the water must be boiled before it is safe to drink.

It is said in Canada that there are two solitudes, one English and one French but I would add a third and call it Native. Our current governor-general tells us the time of solitudes has passed but I would suggest that until the third solitude has ended the silence is positively deafening.


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Don't the provonces have any accountability here?

John the Mad said...

Under the constitution the federal government has the jurisdiction and the fiduciary obligations respecting Aboriginal peoples. In addition, reserve lands are federal lands held by the Crown for the use and benefit of the First Nations.

It's a federal responsibility, period.