LANDSDOWNE HOUSE, TREATY 9 TERRITORY, ON, July 23, 2022 /CNW/ - Today, Neskantaga First Nation welcomed the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor), to the community.
The Minister's visit coincided with Neskantaga's Traditional Gathering that took place from July 18 to 21, 2022, which included various ceremonies, teachings and traditional activities at the Landsdowne House site—the former location of the community. The visit also coincided with the Neskantaga First Nation pow wow, which takes place from July 22 to 24, 2022. Minister Hajdu joined community members and visitors for the Grand Entry ceremony as well as other community activities throughout the day.
On June 19, 2022, Neskantaga marked 10,000 days of being under a long-term boil water advisory – just over 27 years. With former Indigenous Services Minister Carolyn Bennett visiting in 2016, Patty Hajdu's visit represented a second time that an Indigenous Service Minister has been to the community. At that time, Minister Bennett was presented with a Neskantaga First Nation photo album on community infrastructure, illustrating the living conditions the community lives under. Today's visit follows two meetings in the past few months, first in June in Toronto to discuss the shared path forward, and then in July to provide an update and introduce Minister Patty Hajdu to youth of the community – who shared their priorities and identified their ideal paths forward.
Today's visit began with a tour of the community arena lead by youth and women, a visit to the water treatment plant, and a visit to the Elders complex. Minister Hajdu then met with community members to get a deeper appreciation of life in Neskantaga.
During the visit, community members and the Minister discussed how the Government of Canada can further support Neskantaga, particularly as it relates to the community's ongoing 27-year long-term drinking water advisory. Canada and Neskantaga have committed to working together to support measures that will help prepare the community to lift their long-term advisory, build community confidence in the safety of the water supply, and heal from the impacts of a generation without clean, safe drinking water.
The Minister committed to supporting a proposal from Neskantaga First Nation to fund two Navigator positions to help community members address trauma caused by the long-term water crisis. These navigators will support community members by connecting them with health supports while also gathering input towards a long-term wellness Trust in Taps program designed through community feedback and direction.
This builds on the shared commitment between Neskantaga and Canada to advance holistic community wellness. Earlier in July, Neskantaga and Canada finalized the terms of reference for an assessment on Neskantaga's water system infrastructure as well as an investigative report into how and why the water treatment plant upgrade project took years longer than expected and ran way over budget.
After discussions with community members, the Minister's visit ended with a feast during the traditional gathering at Neskantaga's old community side of Landsdowne House.
"Neskantaga First Nation appreciates the opportunity that Minister Patty Hajdu took to speak directly with our members of our nation who endure not only many states of emergency—but a continuing water crisis affecting their human rights. We are certain that her visit today will deeply inform the choices Canada makes regarding our community as we move forward together on a path towards healing and wellness after the traumas brought on to us by 10,000 days and counting of living without clean, safe drinking water."
Wayne Moonias, Chief of Neskantaga First Nation
"A big thank you to Neskantaga First Nation for welcoming me into their community to meet with youth, Elders, and Chief Moonias and Council. We will continue to work in together to ensure your community can more quickly access to clean, safe drinking water. We have hard work ahead to be sure, but I know together we can create a better future for everyone."
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services
Neskantaga First Nation is located in Northern Ontario on Attawapiskat Lake, 271 km north-east of Thunder Bay, Ontario. It is a remote community accessible only by air or winter ice road. It has over 500 band members.
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SOURCE Indigenous Services Canada
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