In a social media post from Chief Chris Moonias, the residents from Neskantaga are returning home. Work on the water treatment plant was not complete, however, water was running again and, after 14 days of tests, was cleaner than before.
About 250 people relocated to a hotel in Thunder Bay in late October after an oily sheen surfaced in the community’s reservoir. A handful of residents stayed behind to do necessary work.
It’s been difficult for residents to go through a pandemic, water crisis and evacuation at the same time, Moonias said.
He thanked people in Thunder Bay and other First Nations across Canada for their support.
Chief Moonias was clear about the conditions required to be in place before people could go home, including a call to investigate the business practices of companies that work on water-treatment facilities in Indigenous communities.
Moonias also thanked federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller for working with the First Nation during the crisis and committing to support their priorities.
Members of Neskantaga First Nation have been under a boil-water advisory for longer than any other in Canada. They are hoping to return home before Christmas to clean running water for the first time in 25 years.
Neskantaga is only accessible by air and an ice road in winter. It sits about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont. – where nearly 300 of its members have been living in a hotel since an oily sheen in the reserve’s reservoir on Oct. 19 triggered their evacuation.