Following a Winnipeg Free Press investigative series on the lack of running water on northern Manitoba reserves, several groups in the province's capital are pitching in.
Personnel at the Splash Child Enrichment Centre, which operates two Winnipeg day care centers, are working with businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations to collect money and materials for 1,400 waterless reserve households, the Press reported in December.
The extensive series, which ran in October and November, reveals that half of the 10,000 residents of Island Lake, just an hour’s flight from Winnipeg, do not have running water. More than than 40 percent of the country’s First Nations homes that lack running water are in Manitoba, although that province only holds 15 per cent of Canada’s reserve housing stock.
Most of Manitoba's unserviced homes are in the four Island Lake First Nations—St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack, Red Sucker Lake and Garden Hill—located about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, near the Ontario border, the newspaper said.
These water woes do not even take into account the tens of thousands of aboriginals across the country who have running water but cannot drink it, according to numerous news reports.
Winnipeg’s private fund-raisers may end up acting more quickly than Canadian officials, who have been studying and funding the issue of water on the country’s Native reserves since at least 2006 and still have not made much progress, according to the Press. Potable water will be on the agenda of a meeting recently agreed to by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Canadian officials are conducting a major study of the country’s water situation on all 630 reserves, they told the Press. But an ICTMN search of the Indian Affairs Web site did not yield any posted results or progress reports.
Besides the day care center, some schools are involved in the fund-raising effort, establishing a weekly crafts workshop in which students and staff are making things to sell at a spring fair, to be scheduled in February. Proceeds will help buy water bottles, shampoo and other personal hygiene items for the communities, the Press said.
Students are also drafting letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan, the head of the day care center told the Press.