Nishnawbe Aski Nation press release ...
NAN Chief demands action before another Kashechewan
THUNDER BAY, ON, Oct. 3 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy supports Marten Falls First Nation Chief Eli Moonias as he demands immediate rectification of a water and sewer emergency declared by he and council after a July sewage spill in the remote, fly-in community approximately 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay.
"Our concern is the danger of the continuing spillage of effluent into the pristine Albany River threatening to contaminate our water intake which is downstream from the spill," said Eli Moonias, Chief of Marten Falls First Nation also known as Ogoki Post and one of 49 First Nation communities part of NAN.
"Myself and the council realized the danger back in July and reported it immediately to the provincial spill agency which in turn advised INAC, Health Canada, and the federal department of the Environment," he added. "Despite recommendations from an Environmental Health Officer, federal government agencies didn't act with the urgency required in matters of health and instead are using regular bureaucratic processes causing delays in repairs and long-term upgrades."
Moonias' comments come after a July 17th sewage spill occurred upstream of the water intake in his community of approximately 300 people - similar to the situation that led to the presence of e-coli in the drinking water in Kashechewan First Nation and subsequent evacuation of 1,700 people last October.
The July 2006 sewage spill was a result of a lightning strike to the lift station of the water treatment plant destroying its automatic function. As a temporary fix, the community operator ran the lift station manually, however shut-downs caused by over-heating resulted in sewage overflows, a subsequent spill into the Albany River September 8th, and continued raw sewage overflow still occurring today.
In addition to this year's sewage overflow and spills, turbidity, slow filtration rates, and the lack of capacity of the current water treatment plant not only resulted in a boil water advisory one year prior, but continues to deteriorate water quality in Marten Falls today.
The lacking capacity of the current water treatment plant forces the community to shut it down overnight in order for it to fill enough to circulate properly. Limited to no water is available during this time, increasing the community's vulnerability to fire.
"The federal government wants to fix this problem with a business-as-usual attitude and since Marten Falls isn't on the INAC priority list of communities with most-urgent need of repairs for water and sewer, it could be years before an upgrade is done to satisfy and rectify the whole situation," said Moonias, adding water plant upgrades typically take three years to complete once on the list.
"If this isn't going to be recognized as an emergency situation by the feds, we really have no other choice but to go about having it fixed ourselves because the longer we wait the more chance there is for contamination to occur, especially due to the limited filtration capacity. The danger of something like the crisis of Kashechewan happening in Marten Falls is growing daily."
In a September 25th letter Health Canada advised boiling drinking water must continue in Marten Falls and recommended bottled water be made available to all members of the community until necessary repairs are made to the water treatment plant.
It's expected Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) will follow up to Health Canada's recommendation. INAC was aware of a boil water advisory in the community one year prior to the July 2006 spill.
"It's almost one year since the evacuations of Kashechewan and we said then it was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of faulty water treatment plants and design flaws across NAN territory," said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy who represents NAN communities within James Bay Treaty 9, including Kashechewan and Marten Falls. "It seems like every solution is simply a band-aid on top of another band-aid which clearly isn't working and costing governments more in the long-run."
Beardy's comments come about one month after the Safe Drinking Water Panel concluded its public hearings across Canada. The panel did not visit any NAN First Nation communities directly.
/For further information: Jenna Young, Director of Communications, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4952, (807) 628-3953 (mobile)/
Former students urge fairness in settlement
Marites N. Sison, Staff Writer, Oct 1, 2006
Ten former students of Indian residential schools, among them former Keewatin bishop Gordon Beardy, took the podium on the last day of the Ontario hearing for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and raised objections to parts of the deal struck this year between the federal government, churches and some native groups.
Bishop Beardy, who is Oji-Cree, said the agreement’s provision limiting the Common Experience Payment (CEP) to all residential schools students who were alive as of May 30, 2005 was “unacceptable.”
“To those of us with family members who died before May 30, 2005, this is not acceptable for us,” he said. Bishop Beardy had three siblings who attended residential schools: Tommy Albert, who died in 1987, Martha Lavina Kakepetum, who died in 2002 and Maurice, who disappeared 40 years ago. Tommy returned from residential schools “a very angry man,” said Bishop Beardy; Maurice was “stabbed and sexually abused and came back home for awhile and then left and disappeared,” and Martha went to the Pelican Falls residential school at a “very young age” and stayed there for six or seven years, he said.
Bishop Beardy, who was the first to approach the podium of the courtroom packed with former students who had suffered abuse while in residential schools, also took issue with the list of schools covered by the agreement, saying it was incomplete.
He also told Ontario Superior Court Justice Warren Winkler, who presided over the three-day hearing, that the government must address the “serious concern” about missing records of former students. He said that there are students, some in their 80s, who have been told by government employees that there is no record of their attendance in residential schools. (Anglican church negotiators had also earlier raised this concern.)
“Some of them were those who fled and escaped because of the abuse and stayed for a year and they don’t speak English,” he told Justice Winkler, “Our people are poor and struggling, I ask you to seriously consider our concerns.”
Rev. Andrew Wesley, a Cree priest who runs the urban native ministry of Toronto’s Church of the Redeemer, also raised the issue of missing records, citing his own experience.
“I myself requested my records and received a letter saying I never did attend the residential schools,” said Mr. Wesley. “But I did my time for 10 years.” Mr. Wesley attended the Anglican-run Bishop Horden Hall residential school in Moose Fort, Moose Factory, and the Roman Catholic-run St. Anne residential school in Fort Albany, both in northern Ontario. Mr. Wesley, who said he suffered abuse in residential schools, said he at least has a copy of a school report card, which had been kept by his parents. There are many others who have nothing, he said.
Two other objectors raised the issue of missing students who never returned from the schools and whose parents wonder, to this day, what became of them. The issue of missing students is not mentioned in the agreement.
“Nobody has mentioned the children that passed away or weren’t sent home. Some weren’t even registered,” a teary-eyed Shirley Roach said. “There should be a recognition of them because they were there and their parents never saw them again.”
Other objections focused on the amount of the CEP (the agreement provides a payment of $10,000 plus $3,000 for each additional year spent in residential school), which some referred to as “unjust” and “not enough to compensate for the pain” that they went through. There were an additional 100 written objections submitted to the Ontario court.
In response, government lawyers said that the amount was “the best we could get” and was a “step in the right direction.”
During the hearing, Justice Winkler clarified a concern raised by some former students who said that lawyers had informed them that aging claimants who received the advance CEP of $8,000 are to repay the money in the event that the agreement is not finalized. The agreement must be approved by nine provincial courts to become final (Ontario’s was the first court to examine the deal).
“No one is required to pay the $8,000 back. It’s a demonstration of good will,” said the government lawyers, in response to a query made by Justice Winkler.
At the hearing, one of the government’s lawyers, Paul Vickery, presented Justice Winkler with an affidavit that set out the government’s plan for achieving the agreement’s goal of having 2,500 hearings each year for cases involving physical and sexual abuse that will undergo the Independent Assessment Process. Earlier, Justice Winkler had questioned how “realistic” the goal was.
The affidavit specified the government’s “current planning assumptions,” which include the hiring of 445 people to implement the process.
In an interview, Ellie Johnson, who represented the Anglican Church of Canada in negotiations for the revised agreement, said the affidavit did not address the issue of missing student records. Ms. Johnson, the church’s former acting general secretary, called the situation “very unfair” and said that while CEP claimants may appeal a national administration committee, those who have filed for advance payment have no such recourse.
“One of our jobs is to be ready with our (church) records if the attendance records are not found. There might be photographs that can help. People will need alternatives,” she said in an interview.
Justice Winkler said he was not certain whether to issue his ruling on the agreement before or after the eight other courts are done with their own hearings. The last hearing is scheduled Oct. 17 at the Supreme Court of the Yukon.