Hundreds of Winnipeg walkers call for clean drinking water on First Nations

Organizers estimate more than 1,000 people poured into the streets of downtown Winnipeg Friday to bring attention to the dozens of First Nations in Manitoba and across Canada currently under boil water advisories.

Student-led demonstration walks from city hall to Manitoba Legislature

An estimated 1,100 people took part in a walk from Winnipeg City Hall to the Manitoba Legislature Friday calling for accessible clean water on Canadian First Nations. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Over a thousand people poured into the streets of downtown Winnipeg Friday to bring attention to the dozens of First Nations across Canada currently under boil water advisories.

Roughly 1,100 people, including more than 800 students from the Seven Oaks School Division, took part, organizers estimate.

Carrying signs, the demonstrators walked from city hall down Main Street to Portage Avenue, and then up Memorial Boulevard, before ending at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Eric Jasysyn helped organize the walk and hoped to get the attention of politicians.

"The Indigenous communities have been suffering for so long and it's time to start seeing change," said Jasysyn, a Grade 12 student from Seven Oaks Met School.

"We want to make sure everyone understands that water is a basic human right and everyone deserves access to clean water."

Seven Oaks Met School Grade 12 student Eric Jasysyn helped organize Friday's walk. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Jasysyn points specifically to the situation at Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which provides Winnipeg with its drinking water, yet doesn't have a water treatment facility and has been under a years-long boil water advisory.

"It is time to start seeing change and it's time to start getting them the water that they deserve," he said.

"We want to start getting people hearing our voices."

According to Indigenous Services Canada, 57 First Nations across Canada were under long-term drinking water advisories, including four in Manitoba, as of April 27.

Indigenous Services Canada has set a date of March 2021 to have all long-term water advisories lifted on Canadian First Nations, and says 85 of the advisories have been lifted since November 2015.

Friday's Walk for Water was organized by students from Seven Oaks Met School. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Seven Oaks Met School teacher David Law said Friday's walk was completely organized by students.

"I think it's a really important issue for everyone to know about," said Law.

"There are communities across Canada that don't have access to clean drinking water — that's a big problem."

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