Ahousaht has been without clean water since a water main break forced the remote First Nation into a state of emergency on Friday and Gord Johns is urging Ottawa to do something about it.
“We need immediate action,” the NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni told the Westerly News.
“This community can’t wait another 24 hours for a sizeable amount of water and the resources necessary to take care of the displaced members. We need government action immediately.”
He said Ahousaht officials did an “incredible job” to organize evacuations of local elders and children to Tofino and Lone Cone but can’t do it all without some assistance.
“A lot of people were counting on going home to Ahousaht and being with their family. This is a very important time of year for everybody in our communities during the holiday season but especially for remote communities where people take the time to travel far distances to be close to their community and we know how tight the Ahousaht community is,” he said.
“We’re urging the government to do everything they can to get water to the Nation, to provide the resources for accommodation and meals for those members that have been displaced and, if necessary, to provide some of the experience and people that can help remedy the line break given the difficult challenges that this community’s facing.”
He noted the area where the break occurred is below sea-level making a quick-fix unlikely.
“They’ve had a difficult time tackling the line-break because of the tides…They’re looking at other ways, maybe even using divers, to try to repair the line but it’s a big task,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to wait until Dec. 27, when the next low tide is, to fix this line. That’s past Christmas and that would mean a lot of members being displaced for a great amount of time.”
Johns said he contacted Canada’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennet’s office this morning to urge for immediate support.
“We didn’t waste anytime. I was on the phone early this morning to contact Ottawa when Ottawa opened. We’re working the phones and making sure we’re getting action,” he said.
“It’s a serious health concern to not have potable water…Where the government can come in is order the water and figure out who can pay for it later because the people in the Nation are actually dealing with the crisis at hand on the ground and we need them using all their resources to support their members.”
He added the region is stepping up to help out.
“People have been driving all the way to the Coast to get water on boats and up to Ahousaht,” he said.
Any locals willing to help out by donating water are encouraged to contact Ahousaht deputy chief councillor Patti Charleson at email@example.com or 250-670-9531.