After wading into water-related work over the past fifteen years, the Indigenous Neighbours program at Mennonite Central Committee in Ontario has engaged with projects on the ground in addition to advocacy in partnership with First Nations. While this work has been rewarding and progress has been made, there’s so much work to be done. “It’s tragic to see the inequity that continues when it comes to this basic human right, that of clean water,” says Lyndsay Mollins Koene, Indigenous Neighbours program co-ordinator.
As the bush plane flies, Pikangikum First Nation is 100 km north of Red Lake, 325 km northwest of Thunder Bay, or 850 km northwest of Toronto.
MCC photo/Isaac Shelley
While this remote fly-in community has been called “God’s country” for its natural beauty, the landscape is in stark contrast to the disparity felt because of a lack of potable water in the homes. Pikangikum First Nation is also one of the largest communities in northern Ontario with the highest on-reserve population, approximately 2,300 members. Of those 2,300 members, close to 75 per cent are 25 years of age and younger.
Of the 500 homes in Pikangikum First Nation, just 109 of these homes have taps and sinks, making indoor access to potable water an impossibility for most in the community.
Pikangikum is one of 78 First Nations across the country who are struggling with long-term drinking water advisories. In Pikangikum, this has meant living with more than a decade of boil water advisories. As a result, community members must gather their water for cleaning and cooking from one of six operating cisterns.
In July 2010, the United Nations adopted "the human right to water and sanitation." It recognized that “the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for realization of other human rights ... right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.” - UN General Assembly 64th Session, Resolution 64/292.
On World Water Day, March 22, 2020, MCC invites you into the Pikangikum story; into the lives of community members; to listen to and support Indigenous children, youth, young adults and leaders advocating for this basic human right to water.