Two non-election stories caught my eye Saturday. First, there was this story about the flooding on Peguis First Nation and then this one about a state of emergency due to a complete lack of potable water on Pikangikum First nation. Too much water in the first instance, none that people could drink in the second.
I called these non-election stories, but why aren’t they?
Seriously, if hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes due to flooding it would prompt immediate questions from the media, concerned commentary by party leaders and, most probably, a visit from someone in the federal government looking to help even though, if this happened off-reserve, it would be a provincial responsibility. Instead, the provincial government in Manitoba is stepping up, despite this being a federal responsibility. Two weeks ago, there were stories about the mere possibility of flooding in Winnipeg and anxious speculation as to its possible impact on the federal election. It happens on Peguis and there is not one word about it on the campaign trail.
In an earlier blog in this space, I mentioned what happened in Walkerton, Ontario, its role in bringing down a provincial government and how the continuing water problems on First Nation reserves only get mentioned as a link to a scandal involving former Harper aide, Bruce Carson. As if on cue, here is Pikangikum’s state of emergency, reflecting a worsening situation from a pre-existing state that has been allowed to continue literally for years without response. I take no pride in predicting the far too predictable.
In the end, I am left with two simple and probably obvious questions. Wouldn’t there be outrage if these situations were happening off-reserve and why the difference?
Daniel Wilson is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in Indigenous rights and human rights and co-author of the 2010 CCPA study, The Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Rest of Canada.