This was the front page of the Globe and Mail just the other day:
It is beyond shameful that 39 Canadian communities are still under boil water advisories. But the problem is not just boil water advisories, Corinna Dally-Starna, in an article in The Conversation, an independent journal established by the Canadian academic and research community, explains that there are deeper, underlying problems which make boil water advisories just a symptom of a bigger engineering problem.
The good news is that, at its root, and despite some social and political influences, it is an engineering problem and, as I have said before, in relation to e.g. environmental issues, we, humans, including we Canadians, have been solving difficult engineering problems for millennia.
It seems to me that we need to “scope” each individual problem, and there are several hundred First Nations in Canada and many of them are in remote areas and many of them also have some or all of the problems that Ms Dally-Starna enumerated including being in remote areas, sometimes too close to resource extraction sites which have compromised water quality, and a lack of engineers and technical staff.
Ms Dally-Starna makes the key point that in too many communities, even when there is clean water, many people are not connected to a water supply (or electrical) network. The real problem is not just water. There are a whole host of related problems, including, in some cases, community leadership, about which I am not sufficiently well-informed to comment, but engineering is one of them.
Too many remote communities, not just First Nations, have less than first rate technical services. It is always expensive, and sometime practically impossible to get enough full-time, resident technical staff to live in remote communities. But a small town needs a doctor and a dentist and a someone to maintain the electrical and water supply and waste disposal and telecommunications infrastructure just like bigger towns from St John’s or Esquimalt do. It is better, but not essential, if they are local people with ties to the communities they serve, but, throughout our history, “outsiders” have often contributed to building communities.
This is not totally a First Nations issue. Many remote communities are not as well served are small towns and villages in say, South Western Ontario or British Columbia. The problem starts with reliable broadband communications and includes electricity and water supply. But the problems are more easily settled in non-First Nations communities because they only have to deal with provincial governments that, as often as not, actually listen to voters rather than just thanking them for their donations.
Time and again our Supreme Court has told us that, in their dealings with First Nations, the governments we elect have besmirched the honour of the crown. The Supremes really mean that the governments we elect dishonour us by lying to and cheating our fellow Canadians. It is past time for some action. It will not be simple and it will not be cheap but the answers are not rocket science, either: they are relatively straight forward, day-by-day, engineering and technical service issues ~ plumbing and electrical supply and sewage treatment and so on. If they can be done, not always as well as they should be, to be sure, in rural and small-town Ontario, then they can be done in remote regions, too. If we have to use the Canadian Armed Forces to get things rolling then do so … if we can supply clean water to countries halfway around the world then we must be able to do it for our fellow citizens here at home.
The Globe and Mail‘s headline should shock and appal all Canadians. The Trudeau government has, yet again, disgraced us all. It’s time for a change.