Canada

Indigenous group walks from Kingston to Parliament Hill to protest lack of clean water

This year’s water walk began by filling the copper pail with water from Lake Ontario in Kingston.

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Ten Indigenous men and women walked from Kingston to Parliament Hill with a copper pail in hand as part of an annual water walk.

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“Mr. Trudeau said he’d give all of our people fresh water, clean water on our territories,” said Lisa Cadue, who organized the walk.

Cadue is from Tyendinaga and says she still doesn’t have clean water.

“We’ve been on a boil water advisory for 33 years,” she said.

Cadue has been participating in the water walks for at least 10 years, but Indigenous peoples have been doing these walks all across Canada for clean water before her.

“It’s mainly because (of) the government’s broken promises and because most nations in Canada don’t have clean water to drink,” said Cadue.

This year’s water walk began by filling the copper pail with water from Lake Ontario in Kingston before starting the trek to Parliament Hill. After the 163-kilometre walk, the copper pot will have cleaned the water they collected.

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“By the end of the walk, you can actually drink that water,” said Cadue.

The women carry the copper pail throughout their travels, and are clothed in ribbon skirts, says Cadue.

“The men carry the eagle staff and they are usually on the left-hand side of the road” to protect the women and the water, she continued.

The group started the walk at roughly 7 a.m., in Kingston on Saturday morning and ended the night in Seeley’s Bay, where they placed a marker down to come back to. Every campground in Seeley’s Bay was booked, so they drove over to Sam Crosby’s house in Brockville.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that I’m sitting here in my house in Brockville with all of my people right now and I can just pour water out of the tap and drink right from there,” said Crosby, a Mohawk woman who also took part in the walk.

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“But an hour and a half, two hours away we’ve got people who have been in boil water advisory for more than three decades,” she added.

Early Sunday morning, they headed back to their marker and began their walk again, where they stopped in Smiths Falls to rest for the night.

Crosby believes that the recent findings of unmarked graves at former residential schools has opened everyone’s eyes and raised awareness to what Indigenous people in Canada have and are living through.

“We are hoping that this walk, and other water walks we embark on raise awareness as well,” added Crosby.

On the walk, they met many people who stopped to ask questions and show their support, she said,

“We have this window of opportunity were people are really starting to ask questions and they really want to know things.”

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Once they arrived in Ottawa on Monday night, they were to perform a water ceremony, as they did in Kingston with Elmer St. Pierre, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP).

At the Ottawa River, they were to pour the Lake Ontario water from the copper pail into the river, and then fill the pail again with the river water. When they drive back to Kingston, they’ll pour the river water back into the lake.

Cheryle St. Pierre, executive director of the Ontario Coalition of Indigenous Peoples (OCIP), an advocacy organization that represents the rights of Indigenous peoples on and off reserves, criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking as part of CAP.

“Trudeau needs to be held accountable for his broken promises,” she said, adding she’s doing the walk on behalf of the national chief and representing OCIP.

“We have to keep doing these water walks to make him understand that one way or another we are going to get what he promised us,” said Cadue.

— Jessica Munro is a Brockville Journalism Initiative reporter

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