December 22nd, 2023
LETTER - Lack of clean drinking water in Red Sucker Lake requires urgent action
Dear Minister Hajdu,
I am writing to you today due to the urgent drinking water situation in Red Sucker Lake and the need for federal action now. Red Sucker Lake is calling for immediate support as well as investments in infrastructure including water pipes.
Red Sucker Lake, as you know, relies on cisterns for clean drinking water. Numerous studies have identified these cisterns as being a cause of bacterial contamination to a community water supply. The reality is the cisterns do not provide the same level of safety, reliability and ease of maintenance compared to a fully piped system. To further compound matters, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is not providing the necessary funds to clean the cisterns. Most tanks have not been cleaned for up to 20 years. As Chief Knott said in a letter addressed to you recently, Red Sucker Lake “suffered from poor water supply, poor treatment, poor storage and extremely poor distribution for too many years.”
The result of this chronic underfunding is that Red Sucker Lake has made the difficult but necessary decision to not consume cistern tank water, affecting up to 200 homes.
Indigenous Services Canada has let this situation get so out of hand. Your government has underfunded the maintenance of these cisterns. Without community knowledge, ISC brought in an outside contractor that botched repairs. Red Sucker Lake is forced to rely on band-aid solutions that aren’t even working.
Red Sucker Lake was one of the First Nations hard hit during the pandemic. At that time the Canadian Forces had to come into the community to assist with the situation. The lack of infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water was identified as a factor that rendered the community more vulnerable - information that is known to ISC. Canada should have learned its lesson then and invested in Red Sucker Lake’s water system.
The current situation is untenable and your department needs to act. Community members can’t even rely on water to brush their teeth, wash food or cook. No one in this country should be forced to live like this, but your government’s continued mismanagement means that communities like Red Sucker Lake will continue to.
I’ve attached Chief Knott’s recent correspondence with you.
I urge you to get in touch with him and his team to support Red Sucker Lake First Nation at this time.
MP Niki Ashton (Churchill—Keewatinook Aski) – NDP Deputy Indigenous Services Critic