A band councillor and a former chief at the troubled Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat have ended a 15-day hunger strike.
Attawapiskat Councillor Sylvia Koostachin-Metatawabin and former chief Therese Spence said Monday night they would begin eating again after the federal and provincial governments agreed to revive a dormant joint task force to deal with problems at the reserve, especially water issues facing the community.
The task force met Tuesday at Attawapiskat.
One of the conditions to end the hunger strike was a written commitment by Ottawa and Toronto to move forward with the plan.
“We don’t trust the government: we hear their promises whenever the community calls for a state of emergency,” Koostachin-Metatawabin said.
Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency of July 9 after dangerously high levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) were detected in the water.
Residents were were advised against bathing for too long or using the water to wash food.
A Human Rights Watch report found that regular exposure to high levels of these chemicals can cause health impacts ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to increased risk of cancer.
Last week about 50 marchers, mostly women and children, stopped at the band office and confronted Attawapiskat Chief Ignace Gull, handing him a letter and, speaking in Cree, demanding a permanent water fix.
Their protest came as Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said he is committed to building a new water plant and finding an alternative source of fresh water for the the reserve.
With files from CBC, CTV, CP, rabble.ca