With more than two dozen First Nation communities in Canada still under drinking water advisories, two Indigenous business leaders are doing their part to change that.
“We wanted to create awareness of what was going on in our communities and what’s still going on,” Tyson Wesley, co-owner of FN Clean Water in Ottawa, told CTV National News.
Driven by his own experiences with drinking water advisories, Wesley and fellow company co-owner Natasha Commanda run FN Clean Water, with the goal of bringing clean drinking water to First Nations.
The company sells cans of water sourced from natural springs in Lanark, Ont., southwest of Ottawa.
Part of the proceeds go to support the charity Water First, which runs a Drinking Water Program aimed at helping young Indigenous adults become water treatment plant operators.
As of July 18, there were 31 long-term drinking water advisories in 27 First Nation communities, figures from the federal government show.
Some, such as Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, have been under a long-term drinking water advisory for nearly three decades.
The Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have promised since 2015 to end the advisories.
Although the federal government has lifted 135 long-term drinking water advisories since November 2015, its latest figures show it also added 66 advisories during that time.
Wesley grew up in the remote northern Ontario community of Kashechewan, which dealt with high levels of E. coli in its water 17 years ago.
“Our whole community had sores, lesions on our bodies, and we were eventually evacuated because of our water,” he said.
The company is still in its early stages and its owners say they hope to get more retailers involved.
Commanda said a lot more tourists are coming to Ottawa now, which could help spread awareness about the company and Canada’s ongoing water advisories.
“It causes harm to our people and it’s a very important issue that we should all have clean, safe drinking water, and everyone deserves it,” Commanda said.
With files from CTV News