When Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph was invited to visit the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, he jumped at the opportunity. Longfield, who has decades of experience in the field of mechanical engineering wanted to see first-hand the progress being made on the construction of the reserve’s new water treatment facility.
Located on the Bruce Peninsula, the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation is home to 750 people. The community has been under a long-term water advisory, which will be lifted when the new water treatment plant and upgrades to the water distribution system are completed.
MP Lloyd Longfield was pleased with the progress being made. He said, “I was really impressed with the organization and the contractor and crews that are building the new water station in Nawash.” As a member of the Standing Committee on Environmental and Sustainable Development Longfield is determined to eradicate environmental racism.
What is Environmental Racism?
“Systemic racism takes many forms,” said Longfield. “Indigenous communities in Canada face racism on many levels, environmental racism is one of them.” While 135 long-term water advisories have been lifted on reserves, 31 advisories remain in effect. Longfield said, “Everyone in Canada should have access to safe, clean drinking water. The federal government is working with First Nations communities to deliver clean drinking water across Canada.”
Economic opportunities flowing from clean water
Over time, Indigenous residents from Nawash have scattered across the country to pursue economic opportunities elsewhere. The Chief of the Nawash First Nation has a vision and desire to bring them back home. The federal government is proposing to spend $2.4 billion over five years to support housing on reserves. Longfield added, “It’s difficult to convince people to come back when you don’t have the capacity to meet their needs, whether it’s water or housing or jobs.”
With economic opportunities expanding at Bruce Power, the nearby community of Teeswater is growing and recently received federal funding to expand their wastewater facility. Longfield suggested that if the Chippewas at Nawash have clean water as they do in Teeswater, they could provide water to neighbouring communities that are expanding.
“Fighting Cancer Together”
During his meeting with the Chief and band council leadership, Longfield discussed the marketing of medical isotopes in partnership with Bruce Power, which includes an equity stake and revenue sharing program with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON).
The project called Gamzook’aamin aakoziwin in Ojibway which is translated “Fighting Cancer Together”, will expand the availability of medical isotopes for the treatment of various cancers, including prostate cancer. This partnership will see SON and Bruce Power jointly market isotopes to the global medical community.
We have a lot to learn from Indigenous people
The federal government is working in partnership with First Nations to continue building nation-to-nation relationships while also advancing reconciliation though the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Longfield believes such connections offer learning opportunities specifically around childcare, an Indigenous approach to health care, and housing. “Indigenous communities have a lot to teach the rest of us. Housing development is well managed by community leaders. They have projects with Habitat for Humanity and the Tiny Homes program that can be applied to Guelph. They’re doing great work and I think there is a lot that we can learn from them.”
Longfield added, “Their passion for success and pride of place spills over into all areas of their community. I want to thank Chief Veronica Smith and her team for their hospitality and warm welcome.”