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NEWS: Pikangikum First Nation without water and sanitation

CBC reports that the Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario – located about 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay and 300 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg – “is experiencing a spike in its already high suicide rate, prompting a former chief to issue a public cry for assistance. …Five people between the ages of 16 and 26 have killed themselves since July 15 in the community… ‘I feel strongly that no one cares,’ writes ex-chief Gordon Peters in an open letter addressed to ‘whoever wants to listen and help.'”

Postmedia News adds, Peters (now the manager of the Pikangikum Band office), said, “We have no running water. We have no sewer system. …And the government is nowhere to be seen.” In an interview with the Chronicle Journal, Peters said, “As a member of the First Nation, I feel obligated to let Canada and the international community know about these tragedies.”

CBC highlights that, “A report from Ontario’s chief coroner earlier this summer looked at the 16 people between ages 10 and 19 who took their own lives on the First Nation between 2006 and 2008 — in a community of 2,400 residents. …The coroner’s report paints a devastating picture of residents struggling tenaciously against poverty and deprivation, fighting substance abuse, unemployment and domestic violence. …Most homes have no indoor plumbing or running water.”

The Council of Canadians extends its sympathy to the Pikangikum First Nation for the tragic loss of these young people and we express our solidarity with them in their demand to have their fundamental human right to water and sanitation fulfilled. Speaking at the Assembly of First Nations Assembly annual meeting this past July, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said that the United Nations recognition of the right to water and sanitation obligates Canada under international law to come up with a plan to fulfill that right in First Nations communities that continue to go without clean water and sanitation. Barlow said, “The federal government is in violation of this new international recognition.”