So today is blog action day – what does that mean?
It’s a day when bloggers ( dare I call myself that?) blog on one subject for activism and social justice.
I’ve wanted to take part in blog action day in previous years, but I have always been too late; finding out about it after it had already happened.
This year I found out about it yesterday, and while posting at 8pm may seem late, the timing is intentional and not because I don’t have anything to say.
So this years topic is inequality. Where do you start with that, or perhaps how do you narrow it down in a world full of inequality. I was thinking about this on the ride home tonight. At most I fall into the top 10% of the people in the world , since I own a car. I have a university degree, own a home, clean water and sanitation, and am sitting in a coffee shop typing this on my wi-fi connected computer. Am I part of the so-called 1%? Of course, and what more glaring example of inequality than that. However, as another blogger I follow put it, you at least have to acknowledge the issue first. I don’t have to sell all my possessions and live in poverty, but it is incumbent on me to understand that there is an issue here.
Inequality also hits close to home. The first nations incarcerated population is about 77% of all incarcerated individuals in Canada, but only represent 12% of the total population. How is that not glaring inequality and what are we doing to address it.
But what has been sitting in my gut like an undigested peach pit is the intersection of inequality, water and first nations communities.
We live in a fairly well off city here in Winnipeg. Our politicians tout our slow but steady economy, we have development and are looking at increasing our commercial base through industrial development like Centerport. And that’s what got me thinking. Because there is an issue there – Centerport is in the RM of Rosser, an RM that is unable to provide the necessary water for the industrial development. Winnipeg could supply the water, but there is an agreement with Shoal Lake first nation that Winnipeg cannot extend water service to other municipalities without the agreement of Shoal Lake first Nation. They haven’t agreed.
And why should they?
We pipe water hundreds of kilometres from a boreal lake. For us to enjoy, drink, water our lawns, and utilize in the economic development of this city. Piped in from a first nations community that doesn’t even have the basic necessity, scratch that, the basic human right of clean water. They have been under a boil water advisory for years. We take from them what they cannot have so that we can prosper. Is there any more glaring an example of inequity than that? We prosper, while a community suffers.
We fail in our moral and ethical obligation and responsibility to at minimum provide those that we take from the same basic rights as what we take allows us to use and prosper. We fail over and over again by not doing anything and we perpetuate the inequality.
The community needs a $25 million water treatment plant. And while they suffer, we haggle, between levels of government to decide who will pick up the cost. This isn’t a matter of jurisdiction. It’s not a matter of whose purse this should come out of. This is an ethical and moral responsibility that we have abdicated. It doesn’t matter which level of government is responsible. We’re all responsible – at a federal level for abdicating our responsiblity to first nations. At a provincial level by letting this ill-gotten product travel over provincial lands and at a civic level by utilizing this for our gain while those who should have clean water are left to suffer.
We are in the middle of a civic election. Why isn’t this an election issue? Why is this inequality so readily accepted. We need to address this and address this now. We need to remedy this inequality. We need to construct a water treatment plant at Shoal Lake. We need to step up and say “It doesn’t matter if this is a responsibility of our government. It’s a responsibility of us as citizens and Canadians.”