Leadership with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation is fighting to ensure fair compensation for all members of Wunnumin Lake First Nation, not just a select few.

NAN, who represents 49 First Nation communities in the far north, is joining the Chief and Council of Wunnumin Lake who are calling on the federal government to ensure that all members of the community receive compensation from a recent boil water advisory settlement with Ottawa.

Chief Samuel Mamakwa explains that as it stands, only 84 out of the 422 community members will be eligible for any compensation and the community has a deadline of December 2 to opt into the funding.

“The settlement of this class action was intended to address the harm caused to First Nations members who have suffered for years without access to clean drinking water,” explains Chief Mamakwa.

“But legal technicalities mean that eligibility is restricted and doesn’t allow any compensation more than 9 years before the claim was brought forward. This means that our members born before November 20, 1995, are not eligible for compensation, and presents an injustice and inequality to the majority of our people who experienced boil water advisories on-reserve from 2001-2005.”

The settlement agreement states that First Nation members must have lived on an impacted First Nation for over a year during an advisory that lasted for a year or longer, but only between November 2013 and June 2021.

“It is unacceptable that so many of our members are not eligible to receive individual compensation for the harm they have suffered,” adds Deputy Chief Dean Cromarty.

“We are not looking to re-open the settlement agreement, but we are calling on the Government of Canada to respond to our concerns and work with us to correct this gross inequality,” Cromarty adds.

Wunnumin Lake First Nation, located about 360 km northeast of Sioux Lookout, is only accessible by air and seasonal winter roads.

Ottawa has spent $5.6 billion to end 136 long-term drinking water advisories on First Nation communities since 2015. Still, 31 long-term advisories remain in 27 communities across the country.

Northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of these affected communities in all of Canada, with 17 projects still underway.

The Liberal government originally committed to eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. The goal wasn’t reached, but another $1.5 billion was pledged to accelerate their work with a new goal of 2025.