4/22/2011 C News: Natives asked for toilets, got pails By Paull Turenne, QMI Agency WINNIPEG – They asked for bathrooms, or at least portable toilets, and they got five-gallon pails. Chiefs representing First Nations from the Island Lake area of northern Manitoba held a news conference Thursday to lament Ottawa’s response to immediate, short-term help while they discuss how to hook the communities up with running water and proper sewage in the long term. “They agreed to help us with short-term solutions. Their solutions are slop pails and 45-gallon drums. That’s not acceptable,” said Chief Dino Flett, of the Garden Hill First Nation. “In some houses, 15 people have to use that slop pail. That’s not safe. That’s not healthy.”
Chiefs from the Island Lake area bands met with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada last December to discuss ways of addressing the lack of water and sewage infrastructure in their remote communities. Among the chiefs’ immediate solutions were plans for porta-potty style biffies with holding tanks that could be emptied, or alternatively centralized, communal washrooms, showers and laundry facilities.
What INAC sent was 999 slop pails — five-gallon pails meant to be makeshift indoor toilets — as well as about 800 water barrels, and a water and sewage truck for each community, although with no permanent provision for maintenance, operating costs or fuel for the trucks.
Jeff Solmundson, a spokesman for INAC, said the chiefs agreed to that solution in their December meetings. “The trucks and the pails, that was what we could do most immediately. The chiefs agreed to this in meetings,” he said. “I want to stress that we’re still working with them on long-term solutions.”
Chief David McDougall of the St. Theresa Point First Nation said the chiefs also proposed that Ottawa spend $250,000 to audit the current housing and infrastructure needs in the communities in order to provide an up-to-date basis for a long-term plan.
He said that request has yet to be answered.