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Aboriginal leaders call for action on running water

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OTTAWA -- Northern Manitoba aboriginal leaders were in Ottawa this morning demanding the federal government put in place a plan to have clean running water in every northern reserve within two years.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper said the lack of running water in as many as 1,000 homes "jeopardizes everyone."

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"Whenever there is a crisis in any part of the world Canada jumps," said Harper.

He estimates it would cost $60 million to retrofit the homes with the plumbing and fixtures necessary to support running water and install water holding tanks.

Yet northern Manitoba reserves once again are in a flu crisis spurred on by the lack of access to clean water. Two people in the Island Lake region have already died this fall from the flu, said Harper.

The chiefs called upon Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan to force cabinet to take this issue seriously and make it a priority.

Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Todd Russell said the government has money to spend, it’s just chosen to spend it elsewhere, including $16 billion on new fighter jets and $130 million on advertising.

"There is money in this country," said Russell. "The Harper government has just chosen not to invest it in First Nation communities."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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