Linda Redsky says she was overwhelmed when the chief of her community asked her to go to Geneva, Switzerland, and speak to the United Nations about the state of drinking water in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont.
"I couldn't even sleep at night after he asked me," said Redsky.
But she said she talked it over with her husband, who encouraged her to take advantage of this "once in a lifetime opportunity".
So on Monday, Redsky was part of a First Nations women's delegation from Ontario, which was speaking before the United Nations committee on economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR). The committee is reviewing Canada's record on human rights.
The delegation is being led by Human Rights Watch, which spent approximately a year researching the water and sanitation conditions in a number of Ontario First Nations, including Shoal Lake 40, Neskantaga, Grassy Narrows and Batchewana.
Shoal Lake 40 has been under a boil-water advisory for nearly 20 years, while at the same time providing clean drinking water to Winnipeg, Redsky explained to the members of the CESCR committee.
"I said things need to change in our communities, not only for us, but for our children because they need to have clean water. I shouldn't need to have to take my boy to Winnipeg to have a clean bath for his eczema so he doesn't get infected," said Redsky.
The Ontario delegation will make several presentations this week, focussing on women's issues, water and climate change.
"We really need to be heard," said Redsky.