December 20, 2022, Oneida Nation of the Thames – The Oneida Nation of the Thames has declared a state of emergency as of December 15, 2022. Due to severe weather conditions, the water tower at Oneida, the community’s primary source of water, has reached an all-time low. It is likely that the tower won’t refill to the necessary level without further conservation efforts from the community.
“We have unfortunately been left with no choice but to order all non-essential use of water to cease and to put water conservation measures in place.” said Chief Todd Cornelius, Chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames.
On Sunday, the Oneida Emergency Control Group met with representatives from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Emergency Management Ontario, Public Safety Canada, the City of London, Middlesex County, and the Ministry of Natural Resources to assess the issue and how short-term relief can come to the community. This includes daily water delivery from a private water company from Kitchener.
“Our community is in crisis. Canada is taking a reactive approach and we cannot fix this alone. The daily cost of $20,000 for a short-term solution comes from Canadian taxpayers. Everyone should be angry at this unnecessary situation.” states Chief Cornelius.
The subject of water at Oneida has been an ongoing concern on many fronts. A boil water advisory has been in effect on the Oneida Public Water System since September 2019 and became long term in September 2020. The advisory affects 546 homes and 22 community buildings.
Sadly, this news comes just after the anniversary of a household fire that killed a father and his four children, including an infant son, on December 14, 2017. Fire flow (the rate at which fire fighters have access to water supply) and poor housing conditions are constant concerns for the community. Even after the tragedy and promises from Canada to provide a solution of connecting to existing municipal systems little has happened to rectify the dire situation.
“We are located only 30 kilometers from London. We have had tragic events due to insufficient infrastructure for years, and we are still experiencing inadequate access to water – a basic human right.” says Pam Tobin, Chief Executive Officer of Oneida. “This is a blatant example of what Indigenous communities are experiencing as a result of slow progress with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).” The situation is being monitored daily and will continue until water levels are replenished to a safe level