Union fixes neglected First Nation water supply

After years of boil-water advisories, a group of volunteer auto workers has brought potable water to the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

After years of boil-water advisories, a group of volunteer auto workers has brought potable water to the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

Fifty-seven contaminated wells were fixed by members of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The union paid their way; the First Nation provided the materials.

The Toronto-based union has branded the project as providing support to a community forgotten by the government, say autoworkers’ representatives.

Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine toured the well construction last summer.

“Basic rights such as clean drinking water should not be left to the private sector or nongovernmental organizations to pick up the slack where governments have failed,” said Hargrove.

“The federal government refused to take responsibility as it did not meet their criteria for funding. Instead, they bought the community a large truck to deliver water to the older residents and confined,” read a May release by the autoworkers.

Ottawa has spent $800,000 on Band-Aid upgrades to the community’s water supply, such as shock chlorination and water and sewer trucks.

“The government should be ashamed of themselves for not doing more,” said Mike Michaud, skilled trades co-ordinator for the union.

“Little Salmon/Carmacks is a self-governing First Nation, and, as such, is responsible for the water systems in the community,” said Shari Borgford, director of strategic investment for Indian and Northern Affairs.

A federal fund does exist to upgrade First Nations’ water supplies, but only if they serve five or more homes.

Many Little Salmon/Carmacks members are served by individual wells, making them ineligible for funding.

“Other First Nations have gotten (government) money for the same kind of water situation: Champagne, Teslin, Carcross,” said Eddie Skookum, chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

“We were the first to voice our opinions about (the water situation), and, instead, they just gave the money to the other First Nations,” he said.

In 2005, community wells were shown to be at risk for E. coli

—the bacteria responsible for the Walkerton tragedy.

The year before, two Little Salmon/Carmacks members became ill after drinking contaminated water.

The wells, originally installed by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, were “too shallow” and “too close to septic tanks,” said a 2008 report by the Polaris Institute.

“It’s not a safe source of water,” said Jillian Chown of Vista Tek, a Whitehorse-based engineering consultant firm.

Wells were also being contaminated by runoff from the Carmacks solid-waste facility.

“Hopefully, through all the good publication that will come out of this, other companies and organizations will step up to assist First Nations’ needs,” said Michaud.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read