The chief of Piapot First Nation is asking for an apology from Kevin Waugh, a Conservative member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Grasswood, who made remarks regarding water treatment plants on reserves in Saskatchewan.
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“In my province of Saskatchewan, I’ve seen reserves burn down water treatment plants because this government has done little or nothing,” Waugh said in the House of Commons proceedings on Feb. 5. “These water treatment plants need education, and they need people on reserve to operate the water treatment plants and that’s part of the problem that we’ve seen with this government.”
Chief Mark Fox said these comments are more than just wrong, they are “disrespectful and racist.”
“They stir up old, harmful stereotypes from the past…. It’s 2024. It shouldn’t be happening today. People get in trouble now for making those type of disrespectful, racist comments,” he said. “We want people to know that our staff are educated, they’re professional, and they’ve been working hard all these years to manage our water treatment facilities on our nation.”
In 2018, the water treatment plant on Piapot First Nation burnt down. An investigation determined that leaked propane caused the fire. The following day, Indigenous Services Canada was in touch with community leaders to plan for a water treatment plant to be rebuilt.
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Fox said the comments that Waugh made were hurtful to the community and to those who operate the water treatment facility.
“I felt that MP Kevin Law disrespected our community, not only our community but all First Nations communities,” he said. “I was upset. Our community was upset. Our community members were upset. Our elders were upset. And our staff that worked the water treatment plant were very, very upset because of three marks you made about being uneducated and unprofessional. And they were they’re quite hurt.”
In a statement from Waugh and his office to Global News, he clarified his comments further.
“MP Waugh was pointing out that after eight years of Justin Trudeau and this Liberal government, what we have is a trail of broken promises and countless Indigenous communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water,” the statement reads.
“Waugh also raised concerns about two incidents on reserves in Saskatchewan, publicly reported in the media, that saw water treatment plants burn down, disrupting clean water access for First Nations families. He is not familiar with the specific circumstances of these incidents and did not intend to make any implication about the cause.”
The office went ont o say Waugh has reached out to Piapot First Nation and chief Fox to offer an apology.
Fox said Waugh’s office has attempted to contact him. Going forward, he hopes Waugh makes that apology not only to his community but to all First Nation communities in the province.
“I want him to come and see our community, (to) see how professional our community is run,” Fox said.
Waugh is expected to meet with Chief Fox and the Elders next week to tour the community.
The water treatment plant on Carry-The-Kettle Nakoda Nation was destroyed by a fire in 2019 and the cause was ruled undetermined by Saskatchewan First Nation Emergency Management the same year.
Piapot First Nation residents without water after treatment plant burns down
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