Indigenous TikTok creator spreads awareness for Canada’s First Nation water crisis

Water Security Agency removes precautionary drinking water advisory Wednesday in Humboldt , Sask.

When Brennen Mcguire, a two-spirit TikTok creator posted a video last January, he wasn’t expecting the overwhelming response he got.

“I didn’t realize I would have that kind of outreach,” he says.

After living on the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve in southeastern Ontario for nine months, he wasn’t looking to use TikTok to copy the latest dance routines. He wanted to highlight some First Nations reserves where clean drinking water remains impossible to find.

Read more: Why some First Nations still don’t have clean drinking water — despite Trudeau’s promise

Read next: Rent control: What tenants should know as rental prices surge across Canada  

So last January, from his account called @slapppps, Mcguire showed black water spewing from the pipes of his home. The video went viral, racking up 2.5 million views.

“You don’t realize that being thirsty is a scary situation until you’re thirsty and you don’t have any water.”

Story continues below advertisement

His videos started with footage from his own reserve, then highlighted others from Canada that are facing the same issue. Some of these include Chippewas of Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, and Star Blanket Cree Nation.

According to the Federal Government, there are 51 long-term drinking water advisories in 32 Indigenous communities throughout the country.

“Our current prime minister has promised many times to fix this issue. It was his campaign promise,” Mcguire said.

Read more: Trudeau pledges clean drinking water for First Nations communities

Read next: Pope clarifies comments on homosexuality, says sexual act ‘outside of marriage’ is a sin

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke before the United Nations General Assembly stating that “our efforts include investments to help bring safe and clean drinking water to all Indigenous communities.”

Story continues below advertisement

Since November 2015, 108 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted, but a new water system can take three to four years to complete, so there is still a long way to go.

Click to play video: 'Lack of federal funding leaves  Manitoba First Nations with new plants but no access to clean water'
Lack of federal funding leaves Manitoba First Nations with new plants but no access to clean water

Mcguire says he grew up in a household where he had the privilege of getting clean water whenever he wanted. After moving to Tyendinaga, the water issue became real for him.

Read more: Trudeau’s promise to improve First Nations drinking water years behind schedule: federal government

Read next: Taliban double down on barring women from taking university entry exams

He says it was shocking and baffling that getting clean water was now part of his routine. Mcguire said he now has to travel 20-30 minutes to the Napanee water treatment plant to obtain clean drinking water.

“It’s not a routine I thought I would ever have to be a part of,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Miller says he remains ‘committed’ to ensuring access to clean drinking water in First Nations communities'
Miller says he remains ‘committed’ to ensuring access to clean drinking water in First Nations communities

Construction is happening right now to fix his reserve, but there are still some streets that are in need of clean water.

Read more: Chief says Neskantaga First Nation to fully evacuate amid tainted water results

Read next: Ukraine war: ‘Fast-track’ talks between Kyiv and the West underway for missiles, planes

While the federal government continues to work through the issue, outside organizations such as Water First Education and Training Inc. which was founded in 2009 have stepped up. They help first Nations communities solve local water challenges through education, training, and collaboration.

Today, they have partnered with more than 50 Indigenous communities throughout Canada.

Click to play video: 'Broken Promises: Tsuut’ina Nation residents spend hundreds on bottled water'
Broken Promises: Tsuut’ina Nation residents spend hundreds on bottled water

Mcguire says he makes videos that are easily accessible and sharable on social media to spread awareness about other reserves that are in need of help.

Story continues below advertisement
“Now [there are] 25 million people that know this is an issue,” he said. “To be recognized is where we start because we haven’t been.”

Sponsored content