Treaty 9 Territory, Ontario – Neskantaga First Nation and Indigenous Services Canada
Earlier this summer on July 23, Neskantaga First Nation welcomed the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor), to the community.
The Minister’s visit coincided with Neskantaga’s Traditional Gathering that took place from July 18 to 21, 2022, which included various ceremonies, teachings and traditional activities at the Landsdowne House site – the former location of the community. The visit also coincided with the Neskantaga First Nation pow wow, which took place from July 22 to 24, 2022. Minister Hajdu joined community members and visitors for the Grand Entry ceremony as well as other community activities throughout the day.
During the visit to the community arena, community members highlighted the need for ongoing supports for young people in the community, including a multipurpose facility that could serve as a daycare centre and drop-in youth centre. Minister Hajdu committed to continuing these important discussions and working with community leadership to ensure that families in Neskantaga First Nation can access the resources they need.
Community members and the Minister discussed how the Government of Canada can further support Neskantaga, particularly as it relates to the community’s ongoing 27-year long-term drinking water advisory, which recently passed 10,000 days in effect.
Minister Hajdu toured some of the new water infrastructure, and met with the community water operators to understand some of the ongoing challenges when it comes to training and capacity building for the long-term.
Canada and Neskantaga have committed to working together to support measures that will help prepare the community to lift its long-term drinking water advisory, build confidence in the safety of its water supply, and heal from the impacts of a generation without clean, safe drinking water.
Canada will be supporting Neskantaga First Nation to fund two navigator positions to help community members address trauma caused by the long-term water crisis. These navigators will support community members by connecting them with health supports while also gathering input towards a long-term wellness “Trust the Taps” program designed through community feedback and direction.
This builds on the shared commitment between Neskantaga and Canada to advance holistic community wellness. Earlier in July, Neskantaga and Canada finalized the terms of reference for an assessment on Neskantaga’s water system infrastructure as well as an investigative report into how and why the water treatment plant upgrade project took years longer than expected and ran significantly over budget.
Minister Hajdu also announced an investment of $6.6 million to support a project that will provide adequate and much-needed accommodation for teachers and other professionals coming to the community. The new eight-unit complex will not only provide proper housing for teachers and visiting professionals in close proximity to the school, it will also free up six community housing units that can be used by community members.
ISC will work with the community to expedite the project so that supplies can be delivered during the upcoming winter road season. Once complete, these new accommodations will attract experienced and qualified teachers and professionals to reflect the growing requirements of the community, and will help with future recruitment and retention.
The Minister’s visit concluded with a feast during the traditional gathering at Neskantaga’s old community site of Landsdowne House.