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NEWS: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs launch ‘water is a human right’ postcard campaign

CBC reports that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have launched a new postcard campaign on the human right to water. “The postcard looks like the kind of advertisement international aid agencies use to raise money for projects in developing countries. It features a black-and-white photo of a young boy, his face covered with a rash, his eyes dark and without a sparkle. ‘Water is a human right’, the bold headline states. ‘Do you have running water? I don’t…and I live in Canada, I need your help’, reads the bottom caption. The postcard (is) to raise awareness about the lack of safe and clean drinking water on many remote First Nations. Addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it also seeks to embarrass the federal government into doing something about it.”

The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which created the campaign, is Grand Chief Ron Evans.

The article highlights that, “About half the homes in the Island Lakes region of northeastern Manitoba are hooked up to water treatment plants in their communities. They get water from taps, the same way most Canadians do. Some have cisterns and get water delivered every week or two. …But they usually run out between deliveries, and then they have to get water from one of the community wells or chip a hole in the ice on the lake. A third group of people doesn’t have cisterns at all. They are forced to haul water into their homes, pail by pail.”

“Grand Chief David Harper…represents all northern Manitoba First Nations through Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO). …Harper (says) Ottawa has to target money to help people get running water. ‘What we’re looking at right now is $33,000 (per) home to retrofit houses like these. $33,000 you get a tub, a sink, a toilet bowl, and a little room where you don’t have to share your bedroom with a slop pail. Septic tanks included. ‘These conditions are beyond Third World. No person should live in these conditions, especially in Canada.’ Being unable to wash can have much more serious health consequences than diarrhea and skin infections. It’s part of the reason these communities were hit so hard during the H1N1 pandemic two years ago, Harper says.”

“As of Feb. 28, 116 First Nations communities across Canada were under a drinking water advisory. Health Canada won’t provide a list of them, citing privacy concerns. CBC News has obtained one from Aug. 31, 2010, which sources say is still current. There are more communities on that list now than in 2006 (there were 76 then), when a CBC News investigation first looked at this issue, despite the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs will have spent $2.5 billion dollars to improve drinking water access on First Nations by 2013 (the start year is not specified, but 2006 could be implied).” The list of the 76 First Nations communities under a boil water advisory can be read at http://www.cbc.ca/slowboil/BWA%20-%20February%2010th,%202006.pdf.