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Winnipegger lives without running water on Manitoba First Nation

Getting clean drinking water is a daily struggle for thousands of people living on northern Manitoba First Nations reserves. This is what the kitchen sink looks like in a St. Theresa Point home without running water.
Getting clean drinking water is a daily struggle for thousands of people living on northern Manitoba First Nations reserves. This is what the kitchen sink looks like in a St. Theresa Point home without running water. Submitted by Darrick Baxter / Global News

WINNIPEG — Living without a reliable source of clean, running water is a reality for thousands of Manitoba First Nations communities in northern Manitoba.

A Winnipeg man spent a week in St. Theresa Point, nearly 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, documenting his time living with a family of nine who have no running water or indoor plumbing.

Darrick Baxter told Global News the nearest public water pump is roughly two to three kilometers away and family members must walk in frigid conditions, find a ride or hire a cab to get water.

“The second day, when we went out to get water, we didn’t know it, but the water was filled with grey or brown sludge,” said Baxter, who lives in a “beautiful large home” in the Westwood neighbourhood. “It had a lot of whatever it might have been floating on the top, so it’s either use the fresh water for hygiene or use it for cooking. That’s a decision that is very difficult for a family to make.”

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Baxter, who returns to Winnipeg Friday, recounted having to go 22 hours without washing his hands and said brushing his teeth was a luxury that wasn’t always possible.

He has been collecting videos and images and tweeting out his time up north in the hope of shedding light on what he said is a dire situation for thousands of people.

The federal government announced earlier in February that it would spend $323 million over the next two years to improve water and wastewater services on Canadian reserves.

A portion of that money will go to reserves in the Island Lake communities, although it’s unclear whether St. Theresa Point will be one of them.

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RELATED: More federal funding flowing to improve First Nations water

Follow Darrick Baxter on Twitter @ogoki