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Hundreds evacuated from northwestern Ontario First Nation over water crisis

Neskantaga First Nation / Twitter

The chief of a northwestern Ontario First Nation says hundreds of people are being evacuated due to a water crisis.

Chief Christopher Moonias says an oily sheen was discovered in the community’s water reservoir earlier this week.

He says the community has identified 175 vulnerable residents who need to leave, out of an on-reserve population of about 460.

Read more: ‘Deeply frustrated’: 60 evacuated from Neskantaga First Nation over water crisis

However, he says many others have requested evacuation or left on their own because of the situation.

Moonias notes that the community has also been under a boil-water advisory for more than 25 years, and accuses the provincial and federal governments of “dragging their feet on our crisis.”

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In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the office of the Minister of Indigenous Services said the government is “responding to the declaration of emergency issued by the Chief, through its Emergency Management Program.”

According to the statement, Indigenous Services Canada will be providing funding to cover the costs of the evacuation.

It has also provided funding for bottled water.

ISC said efforts have been “redoubled” to “address the quality and volume issues that the First Nation has identified with respect to the water supply to Neskantaga First Nation” and to “support the community’s new water plant to completion and testing.”

The spokesperson said ISC has also requested the water tests be expedited.

In a series of tweets Wednesday evening, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, said ISC is spending $16.44 million for a new water treatment plant and upgrades to the water distribution system and wastewater collection system.

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“The new water treatment plant is near completion and work is underway on the distribution system,” he wrote.

Miller said he will work with Chief Moonias and Neskantaga to develop “long term solutions to restore potable water” and said he is offering his “full support for immediate interim measures.”

“Including on supporting and funding the evacuation of the most vulnerable community residents,” he wrote. 

-With files from Global News