Some members of Semiahmoo First Nation have been without clean water for years

LETTERS: A focus on First Nation’s water

Editor:

Re: Semiahmoo reactions, Oct. 12 letters.

Editor:

Re: Semiahmoo reactions, Oct. 12 letters.

The City of White Rock is acting responsibly in negotiating the sale of our city’s domestic water to Semiahmoo First Nation (SFN).

There is a cost to the citizens of White Rock to produce and distribute this commodity, and we have every right to expect it to be sold at fair market value. White Rock is willing to supply water to SFN if an agreement can be reached. SFN is free to explore other options.

Publicly released figures from the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, shows SFN receives annual funding from the provincial government of $3.3 million, so affordability is obviously not an issue.

To suggest negotiations between two levels of government can take place without a stipulated time frame is naive.

In her letter to the editor, Surrey resident Jo Ann Lawrence suggests that this is somehow immoral. She figures that by attaching a deadline to negotiations, water is being used as a “weapon” and that Chief Willard Cook is somehow being “bullied.”

Surrey also shares a border with the SFN reserve. If Lawrence really believes the SFN is entitled to someone else’s utilities without negotiating to purchase them in a timely manner then she can lobby her own city to be the benevolent provider. Her bleeding-heart narrative is unfounded, and serves no long-term purpose to anyone.

Glen Gerow, White Rock

• • •

Semiahmoo First Nation has been without good water for some time.

Healthy water is a human right. Let us have compassion for our neighbours, sisters and brothers of SFN. We have ignored them and been negligent. We allowed this injustice, just as we allowed the government/church to interfere with First Nation’s affairs, culture, child rearing, education, treaty rights and self-determination.

We need to immediately install a water line with related health and safety systems – at little cost to SFN. They will contribute what they can. If it’s too much for White Rock and SFN to handle, we could partner with Surrey – a joint effort that would create goodwill and feelings of community. Ensuring that everyone has good water is a priority and more important than lesser civic projects.

It may come to light that the water line should come from Surrey, since their water quality may be better and therefore more desirable to SFN. The quality of White Rock aquifer water has lately come into question.

Politically, Surrey may be friendlier, requiring less negotiating and, with possibly the money and the means, offer the expedient solution.

Necessary expertise and funds will be found. Sources include: local philanthropists; federal infrastructure-improvement grants; revised city budgets; redirected money from unnecessary projects; contingency funds; compassionate budgeting, financing and fundraising…

Finally, we might consider the possibility that White Rock could soon be in a situation similar to SFN. If our water becomes unhealthy, we’ll need help and compassion as we look for solutions. Our aquifer is becoming less pure, tainted by years of environmental misuse, leaching chemicals, fertilizers and cancer-causing pesticides.

Then we’ll quietly reflect on the once clean air and waters, filtered by healthy trees, plants and soils. Some will remember land that supported many tall, native trees – all gone except for a few, visible only to the east on SFN land. And we’ll sip our bottled water, puzzling about these unusually hot spring days, observing our ‘view’ – a barren, hot hillside of box-like houses and towers, overlooking the sterile sea and sky.

Cal Pawson, White Rock

• • •

The story about water-supply negotiation has obviously touched some of our moral nerves. I would agree that water is essential to ours and any human’s survival. I also agree that it should be a human right.

However, according to earlier stories on this subject, it has been alleged that a significant percentage of homes on the reserve have not had running water, and some of those that do have been under a boil-water advisory since 2005. It seems that perhaps the Semiahmoo First Nation does not believe it is a right or necessity.

Perhaps the City of White Rock could insist, as part of negotiation, that all homes have access to clean water.

Perhaps on the other hand, as I believe, all Canadians should be citizens and treated with full rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens, not segregated on the basis of race, which I believe is racism.

As for the guilt of what “we” have inflicted on First Nations in this country, me and my wife and our children, and our parents and our grandparents and probably our great-grandparents were never consulted about the regulation and treatment of First Nations/indigenous ieople/Indians. It was probably one of those subjects, like the Constitution and Electoral Reform, where the government realized that only they were conversant enough to make the choices and decisions.

I would wish that as a project for Canada’s 150th birthday from Confederation, First Nations could be included as full-fledged Canadian citizens the same as people whose ancestors came from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean or wherever. It would be a difficult achievement, and would take generations to complete. However, the status quo is disgraceful.

Bob Holden, White Rock

 

 

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