Native Issues on Turtle Island

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About the deplorable water quality in aboriginal communities including Lubicon

Friends of the Lubicon

PO Box 444 Stn D,

Etobicoke ON M9A 4X4

Tel: (416) 763-7500

Email: fol (at) tao (dot) ca

May 28, 2008

below for your information is a copy of a self-explanatory letter with
attachments on water quality in aboriginal communities in Canada
generally and on the Lubicon water situation in particular.

Ominayak's January 30, 2008 letter to Minister Strahl is particularly
important in understanding why the government of Canada is making so
little progress in this area despite banner government announcements
about making sure everybody in Canada has safe drinking water and
bravado government claims about supposed government progress to that

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation

P.O. Box 6731

Peace River, AB T8S 1S5

Phone: 403-629-3945

Fax: 403-629-3939


Tony Clarke

Executive Director

Polaris Institute

180 Metcalfe Street

Suite 500

Ottawa, ON K2P 1PS


National Chief Phil Fontaine

Assembly of First Nations

Trebla Building

473 Albert Street

Suite 810

Ottawa, ON K1R 5B4


Ken Georgetti


Canadian Labour Congress

2841 Riverside Drive

Ottawa, ON K1V 8X7



in any way minimizing the very real problems faced by the six First
Nations mentioned in the water quality report jointly released by your
respective organizations on May 22, 2008, or the very real problems
faced by other aboriginal people across the country, I would like to
point out that all of the traditional sources of Lubicon drinking water
have been contaminated by resource exploitation activity and the water
in Lubicon Territory has not been drinkable for over 18 years.

say in your report that "water has become a source of fear and many
aboriginal people have good reason to believe that what comes out of
their taps may be making them sick". The Lubicon people don't have any
taps. We have no water and sewer system at all. Despite the fact that
our traditional hunting and trapping economy has been destroyed by
resource exploitation activity and many of our people have been forced
onto welfare and don't own vehicles, our people have to somehow arrange
to go over 100 kilometers one way in order to buy bottled drinking
water. Bottled drinking water costs $5 for 22 liters. Gas to make the
return trip costs $100. Welfare rates are $234 a month for a single

You mention in your report the medical problems
being faced by aboriginal people as a result of contaminated water. The
water and air in Lubicon Territory have been contaminated by resource
exploitation activity and our people have been facing serious medical
problems since the mid-1980's including widespread asthma and skin
rashes among our children so severe that they cause permanent scarring;
a tuberculosis epidemic affecting a third of our people; near-epidemic
respiratory and stomach problems; cancers of all kinds and reproduction
problems that during one 18 month period included 19 still born Lubicon
babies out of 21 pregnancies.

You indicate in your report
that some 100 aboriginal communities across the country were on
drinking water advisories as of last month "without adequate response
from the federal government". We have been in on-again off-again
discussions with federal officials about lack of safe Lubicon drinking
water since July of 2002 -- including 5 different federal Indian
Affairs Ministers -- without any result whatsoever. In this regard I
attach for your information a copy of a letter I sent to the current
federal Indian Affairs Minister on January 30, 2008 spelling out the
response we've been receiving from federal officials. It's an
instructive, documented case study of how the Canadian government deals
with the issue of safe drinking water for aboriginal people. To date
Mr. Strahl has not shown the Lubicon people the courtesy of a response
to my letter of January 30, 2008.

The Lubicon people know
other aboriginal people in Canada face terrible problems. We have never
asked to be put ahead of anybody or complained about the services
available to anybody else. However we are the only status Indian people
in Alberta with no water and sewer system at all, and we are maybe the
only status Indian people in Canada with no water and sewer system at
all, and we do think the particular situation of the Lubicon people
merits mention in a report on water quality in aboriginal communities
and reserves in Canada.


Original Signed by

Bernard Ominayak

Chief, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation


Attach: January 30, 2008 letter to Minister Strahl

May 23, 2008 Edmonton Journal article on water report

cc: Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

First Nations water quality 'deplorable,' report warns

'What comes out of their taps may be making them sick'

Mike De Souza

Canwest News Service

Friday, May 23, 2008

quality in aboriginal communities and reserves across the country has
reached a "boiling point," warns a new report released Thursday by the
Polaris Institute, the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian
Labour Congress.

"The deplorable conditions that First Nation
people live in would not be accepted in any other part of the country,"
says the report, co-authored by Andrea Harden and Holly Levaillant from
the Polaris Institute, a citizens' rights advocacy group that
challenges corporate influence on public policy issues.

many, water has become a source of fear, and people have good reason to
believe that what comes out of their taps may be making them sick. What
is happening should be considered a violation of fundamental human
rights in this country."

The report, which focused on six
First Nations communities across the country -- Landsdowne House and
Pikangikum in Ontario, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, Yellow Quill
First Nation in Saskatchewan, Fort Chipewyan in Alberta, and
Little?Salmon Carmacks in the Yukon territory -- says that the
situation has reached a crisis for many local residents.

of the problems that we face, of course, is that there is a tendency to
blame us for the situation," said Phil Fontaine, national chief of the
Assembly of First Nations, at a news conference. "Well in fact, we
never polluted or contaminated our water, yet we're being held
accountable to make sure we fix this, and I think this is completely

About 100 aboriginal communities across the country
remained on drinking water advisories as of last month without adequate
response from the federal government, according to the report.

$330 million in the 2008 budget was allocated to safe drinking water in
First Nations communities over two years, the current government has
backed away from the Kelowna Accord that dedicated $5.1 billion to
improving the socio-economic conditions and access to water for
aboriginal people," says the report. "Although the accord would not
have closed the gap between the standard of living for First Nations
and non-aboriginals in Canada, it was a sign of progress."

said there has been progress in some communities, but that many
aboriginals continue to face "startling" conditions that would shock
many Canadians, such as water that is contaminated by uranium, harmful
bacteria or substances that can stain metal. He added that Landsdowne
House, which is profiled in the report, has been under a boiling water
advisory for more than a decade.

"This is a challenge that is
before the entire country. It isn't just the people that experience
poverty -- First Nations people," said Fontaine. "It's a direct result
of gross negligence on the part of successive governments."

report also raises concerns about the impact of development in
Alberta's oilsands on water quality and the environment for the Fort
Chipewyan community where a local physician, John O'Connor, was the
subject of a complaint from the federal and provincial governments when
he spoke out about an outbreak of a rare form of cancer affecting the

Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister
Chuck Strahl said the federal government is making progress on
improving drinking water standards, but noted that the report didn't
necessarily capture that since it focused on six communities with known

He added that his government would need to introduce new legislation
to specifically cover First Nations water issues.

"There is work to do there, and that admittedly has to be done,"
he said in an interview.

Strahl added water quality issues tend to affect smaller towns
and they are being addressed by the government
in native and non-native communities from coast to coast.

The Edmonton Journal 2008

Chief Ominayak's January 30, 2008 letter
to Indian Affairs Minister Strahl is available here.

It's an instructive, documented case study of how the Canadian government
deals with the issue of safe drinking water for aboriginal people.

To receive timely e-mail updates on the Lubicon situation,
please send an e-mail with the word subscribe in the subject line to

fol-request at


The Ministry of education has introduced new policies affecting aboriginals. The government wishes to have these new initiatives implemented by the start of this school year, September 2009. These initiatives are province wide. Each board is responible to draw up their own policies. Some school boards have already implemented the new policies like Peteborough and Upper Canada District boards. While others like cdsbeo are still up for public consultation.

Consultation period until August 15, 2009
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If you have any concerns or comments please forward them to your local school trustees.

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