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UPDATE: The Council expresses its solidarity with the Pikangikum First Nation

The Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario – located about 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay – has just experienced the tragedy of five of their young people committing suicide over a two-month period. Gordon Peters, the manager of the Pikangikum Band office, recently wrote an open letter addressed to “whoever wants to listen and help”.

In his letter, Peters stated, “We have no running water. We have no sewer system. …And the government is nowhere to be seen.” This summer, a report by Ontario’s chief coroner looking at earlier suicides at Pikangikum said, “Most homes have no indoor plumbing or running water.”

In response to Mr. Peters plea, the Council of Canadians has expressed our deepest sympathy for the loss of young lives and our solidarity in their struggle for social justice.

National water campaigner Meera Karunananthan has written to him saying, “We are outraged that there are communities like yours where families live without access to sanitation and clean drinking water in a rich country like Canada. …While Canada does not recognize the human right to water, the federal government’s failure to guarantee sanitation and drinking water in Pikangikum is in violation of its international obligations – something we will highlight in our continued efforts to ensure the implementation of this important human right. …We recognize that drinking water and sanitation are only one aspect of a larger struggle for social and economic justice in Pikangikum. Given that they are the most basic of human rights, we strongly feel that the lack of drinking water and sanitation highlight the depth of poverty and extent of the federal government’s failure to meet its obligations toward Pikangikum nation.”

The Council hopes to be able to discuss with the Pikangikum First Nation how we can, in the words of Mr. Peters, listen and help.