Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to commit to a pledge to end boil-water advisories on First Nations (Indigenous) communities by March 2021.
Questioned by reporters on the issue on 23 October, Trudeau declined to confirm the timescale, a policy of his Liberal party, saying that travel restrictions related to COVID-19 “have made it more difficult in certain situations, but we continue to work very closely with communities across the country”.
He added that the government will continue to work to “lift the remaining drinking water advisories as soon as possible”.
Canada is one of the wealthiest and most water-rich countries in the world. Yet 61 of its First Nations communities are still warned to boil water before use, not to consume it, or to avoid it altogether because of toxicity levels.
Last week in Neskantaga First Nation, high levels of hydrocarbons in the water supply prompted officials to shut it off, leaving the community without running water and forcing an evacuation.
Initially, the elderly, infants, chronically ill and vulnerable people were evacuated, but the community chief called for everyone in the region to leave as the situation developed.
Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said it is “disheartening and sad” that he has had to instruct an evacuation from the community for a second time during his tenure.
Neskantaga has a population of about 460 people and has Canada’s longest running boil-water advisory at 25 years.