Ontario First Nation evacuates community over water safety, asks feds for help

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A northwestern Ontario First Nation says it’s been forced to evacuate because of poor water quality, and it’s asking the federal government for help.

Neskantaga First Nation, about 270 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, has been under a boil-water advisory for the past 25 years, but reported a drastic decline in water quality over the weekend after a treatment pump malfunctioned.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation says Neskantaga, a member community, asked the federal government to help support an evacuation after water pressure dropped off and there was a surge in visits to the local nursing station.

When the government declined, citing the fact the treatment pump could be fixed quickly, Fiddler says Neskantaga’s chief opted to order an evacuation of the roughly 250-person community.

Fiddler says the poor water quality jeopardized residents’ health, while inadequate water pressure left the community unable to respond in the event of an emergency such as a fire.

Fiddler is calling on both the federal and provincial governments to help Neskantaga cover the cost of the evacuation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is “very concerned” about the situation, but he offered no other particulars when asked about it at a campaign event in Fredericton on Wednesday.

Ontario’s Northern Development ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

 

The Canadian Press

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