Wednesday, September 11, 2013

EPISODE 28: The Island Lake Region
Last week SAMAQAN presented the first part of our story concerning the isolated region in northern Manitoba called Island Lake. Many people were touched by Victor Harpers resilience and Nora Whiteway’s quiet disposition over the lack of running water. Meanwhile the rest of us are blissfully unaware.

This week we go to another part of that story. We show you how the local people in St Theresa Point and Garden Hill deal with water distribution, with sanitation and other infrastructural challenges.  The lack of running water and proper sanitation remains a constant reminder to people in a community that there is no road access. The only road in/out is the winter road, across a frozen lake.

Then there are the realities of Global warming. With the winter road season getting shorter the opportunities to import building supplies, and other large shipments becomes fewer and far between. Over the years the opportunity to develop an infrastructure that includes basic necessities seem unreasonably unattainable. Why can’t anything be done to mitigate this basic human need?

According to the regional Chief and former resident of Garden Hill, David Harper, there is no need why 17 communities should not have an all weather road system. He points to the James Bay Northern Agreement negotiated by the Cree’s in 1975.

“In Quebec where the Crees were negotiating, they pushed for an all access road.” That was 38 years ago. “We’re still advocating for that kind of service”. And the situation should be easy for governments to consider making this possible in an area that still has 1500 homes without running water. The federal government, however, remains unresponsive, choosing instead to approach the problem in a piecemeal fashion. There is a jurisdictional problem, it seems. “Right now there is no government saying they will build all the roads”.

Manitoba’s own provincial government Deputy Premier is from such a community and has reminded the mainstream press that he still has a slosh pail ring around his ass (although no proof was provided). According to the Winnipeg Free Press (WFP) Robinson would put in cash immediately because of the health issue, as many of the people infected by poor sanitation end up in provincial hospitals.

Deputy Premier Eric Robinson is quoted by the WFP: "I think we have to put aside the boundaries and the jurisdictional disputes, that every once in a while pop up, and do something creative," Robinson said. "Our door has always been open to facilitate such dialogue to correct some of the urgent situations."

To date there is no deal in place.

This is just a little bit of the back story for tonight’s episode of SAMAQAN. Please comment on anything you see, hear or read in our stories. We welcome feedback.

But for more detailed coverage of this story visit the WFP website with this link:

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