A First Nation that has been living under a boil-water advisory for 25 years is asking Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to launch an investigation into his top Ontario bureaucrat’s behaviour and the provincial office’s management.
Anne Scotton was replaced as the top department bureaucrat working with Neskantaga First Nation on its current state of emergency after Chief Chris Moonias called for her immediate resignation, citing an irrevocable loss of trust.
On Monday, the department’s senior assistant deputy minister Lynda Clairmont replaced Scotton on the file with assistant deputy minister Joanne Wilkinson, but Moonias said he isn’t satisfied.
“It is with great disappointment that I reach out to you today,” Moonias wrote in an email to Miller obtained by CBC News today.
“ISC [Indigenous Services Canada] seems to be operating as intended, to keep Indigenous people and Nations under control by supporting individuals in positions of power who perpetuate paternalism and colonial ideals … It is in good faith that we expect you will actively pursue an investigation into our concerns with the Ontario RDG [regional director general] and the management of ISCs [Indigenous Services Canada’s] Ontario Region.”
Wilkinson was the Ontario regional director general under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s government and was tasked with implementing third-party management on First Nations to handle their finances when they are deep in debt.
CBC News has reached out to Indigenous Services Canada for comment, but has not heard back yet.
Relationship with first Nations has to be respectful
Neskantaga, a fly-in community about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont., has been on a long-term drinking water advisory since 1995 — two years after a newly constructed water treatment plant failed to provide clean drinking water.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to lift all long-term boil water advisories on reserves within five years of coming to power. That same day, Neskantaga’s chief made a public appeal to all party leaders to personally intervene on the issue, if elected.
Upgrades to the plant were supposed to be completed in 2018, but the project faced numerous delays and the work isn’t complete yet.
Nearly all of Neskantaga’s 300 members moved temporarily to a Thunder Bay hotel last month after an oily substance was discovered in the community’s reservoir and running water was cut off.
Indigenous Services Canada said the substance is a non-toxic mineral oil coming from a distribution pump in the reservoir and repairs should be completed soon.