Nearly half of the 133 First Nations in Ontario currently have boil water advisories, and it has been more than ten years since ten First Nations in northwestern Ontario had clean drinking water.

Peter Moonias

Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias says he is angry about the 20 years his community has gone without clean drinking water. (Jody Porter/CBC )

Neskantaga First Nation, in the James Bay lowlands, has the longest-standing boil water advisory. The community of about 300 people has been without potable water since 1995.

"Twenty years of boil water advisory, yes, it makes me angry," said Neskantaga First Nation Chief Peter Moonias.

"It makes me feel very angry for my people. They don't have to live that way when there is a human rights law that is legislated in Canada," he said. "Why should we live like this? We're part of the human race also."

Here's the list of ten First Nations with boil water advisories issued more than ten years ago:

  • 1995: Neskantaga First Nation
  • 2000: Shoal Lake # 40 First Nation 
  • 2001: Eabametoong First Nation Issued
  • 2001: North Spirit Lake First Nation Issued
  • 2002: Northwest Angle #37 
  • 2002: Sandy Lake First Nation 
  •  2002: Lac Seul First Nation (Whitefish Bay) + 2003 Lac Seul First Nation (Kejick Bay)  
  •  2003: Muskrat Dam First Nation 
  • 2004: Wawakapewin First Nation 
  • 2004: Slate Falls 

*source: Health Canada

Only one other province in Canada has a First Nation with a boil water advisory more than 10 years old. That's Kitigan Zibi in Quebec. According to Health Canada, it hasn't had clean drinking water since 1999.

Health Canada is responsible for public health in First Nations. It says the most common cause for the long-standing boil water advisories in Ontario is "inadequate disinfection of the drinking water."

When asked by CBC what it is doing to resolve the issue, a spokesperson for the department issued an email response.

It said, in part: "In addition to the measures regarding water quality sampling, monitoring and surveillance programs... Health Canada Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) regularly visit First Nations communities to conduct public health program activities and provide training as necessary."

Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias said he has been approached by private companies and charities offering to help with the water problems in his community. 

It's an option Moonias said he is exploring, but he has concerns.

"We don't want to leave the government off the hook...when they have the obligation to do that," Moonias said. "The government is responsible to provide that service."