There are sometimes 15 people to a toilet in some First Nations communities. Yet when chiefs of several First Nations chiefs from the region surrounding Island Lake in northern Manitoba asked federal officials for some stop-gap measures while they work out long-term water and sewage infrastructure plans, they were sent 999 slop pails, the Toronto Sun reports, along with 800 water barrels, plus one water truck and one sewage truck for each community, though without a maintenance plan or fuel cost provisions.
Not quite as civilized as the chiefs had envisioned. When they met with officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) in December 2010 to address the lack of water- and sewage-related infrastructure in remote communities, they had in mind things like Porta-Potties and holding tanks, plus communal facilities for bathing and laundry.
“They agreed to help us with short-term solutions. Their solutions are slop pails and 45-gallon drums. That’s not acceptable,” said Chief Dino Flett, of the Garden Hill First Nation, according to the Sun. “In some houses, 15 people have to use that slop pail. That’s not safe. That’s not healthy.”
The chiefs held a press conference on April 21 to protest the government’s move and demand that water issues at least take a spot on the candidates’ priorities list moving into the election.
“The two biggest issues of water and health are not even on the radar,” said Northern Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
Granted, the pails had toilet seats on them, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.
New Democratic Party candidate Niki Ashton told the Winnipeg Free Press that social and health services on many remote reserves are getting worse, not better.
“This is the response INAC deems appropriate,” said Ashton. “What’s going on here isn’t just inadequate, it’s disgusting.”
Of course, this type of consideration is nothing new to the First Nations in these remote communities. As the Canadian Press points out, INAC’s response to the H1N1 outbreak was comparable.
“Three years ago when there was an outbreak of H1N1, Health Canada supplied body bags to our communities, which was very offensive and insensitive,” said McDougall, who lost his niece in that outbreak, to the Canadian Press. “Now Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is supplying slop pails as a solution.”