17 Aug 2010, Posted by Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver

Serving Globally

This page is about how Cathedral parishioners and ministries serve the global village. Examples include funding support for the PWRDF campaign we are currently participating in
The Water Project.

Brush Your Teeth, Flush the Toilet, Wash Your Hands

The Water Project FAQs

Q: What is the goal of the project?

A: The goal is raise $10,000 in order to help provide potable drinking water to one home in Pikangikum, Ontario, by equipping the home with a cistern to hold the water and a wastewater holding tank, as well as the necessary fixtures and fittings. The Cathedral Water Project is part of a larger project to provide water to ten homes.

Q: Why “Brush Your Teeth, Flush the Toilet, Wash Your Hands?”

A: We don’t often think about how complicated these simple daily tasks are. Without clean running water or the ability to easily remove wastewater from our homes, life would be incredibly complicated.

Each time we brush our teeth, flush the toilet, or wash our hands, we’re reminded of the needs of many throughout the world, including many Indigenous communities right here in Canada.


Q: What first brought Pikangikum’s water issues to attention?
A: The community made international headlines a few years ago when a wave of youth suicides marked this small community with the highest known per capita suicide rate in the world.

Q: What role did the local community take in addressing the water needs of the Pikangikum community?
A: Local input has come from the Chief and members of Council (C&C), elders and the school system. The community identified twelve key priorities, including the construction of creative and empowering housing, water, and food solutions. The C&C provided input on the project proposal submitted to PWRDF and expressed their commitment to participate in development, community support, contribution (cash or in-kind), implementation and ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the project, as well as to select all ten houses to be retrofitted for water and waste water service. Members of the households receiving the water and wastewater systems in their homes will be trained to install and maintain their system. The C&C will work with staff at the water treatment plant to ensure proper operation.

Q: Is Pikangikum affected by other needs?
A: The community is affected by a diversity of interrelated factors, including housing, water, and food security issues. Each of these factors needs to be addressed together in order to find a sustainable, locally-led solution for Pikangikum. Challenges include:

  • Poverty and lack of gainful employment.
  • Largely absent community infrastructure.
  • The community is not connected to the hydro grid. Power is diesel generated, and can be unreliable.
  • Substandard, overcrowded housing
  • Food and water security are daily challenges.
  • Isolation presents certain challenges and expenses to improving infrastructure.
  • Backdrop of colonialism, racism and social exclusion arising from the historical plight of First
    Nations people including the effect of residential schools.
  • Many youth experience a tension between traditional culture and contemporary consumer society, which produce mental health and identity issues.

North South Partnership for Children and the Pikangikum Community Members Participatory Assessment of Pikangikum, February 2008, p.14:

“Many Nishnawbe Aski young people are struggling with questions of who they are and where they belong. They are exposed to lavish lifestyle through the media, while attending urban high schools, and when trav- elling to larger centres; but the living conditions of the families and communities leave them with only the reality of extreme poverty. They are called “Indians”but they know that they are not “Indians.”They know that their lifeline should be connected to the land and its resources, but nothing in the mainstream educa- tion system or the media helps them build this connection. They wonder who they are or why they exist. Coupled with the physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse that has become intergenerational as a result of residential schools and loss of identity, it is not surprising that some young people decide it is easier to leave this world than to live in it. Suicide comes to be a viable alternative when there seems to be no hope of find- ing help or relief from an unending cycle of poverty and abuse: social, racial, physical and sexual.”

Q: What is the Federal Government’s responsibility when it comes to First Nations in Canada?
A: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s (AANDC’s) responsibilities and its partner- ships with First Nation people and communities range from negotiating land claim and self-government agreements to providing social services, education and economic development These activities support AANDC’s vision, and help to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations people. (http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013791/1100100013795)

Q: Why isn’t the Federal Government currently addressing the needs of the Pikangikum community?
A: This is complicated. The Federal Government would answer that they are working towards addressing this problem. Over ten years ago they promised to work towards a solution to the water issue in Pikangikum. It is their responsibility under the Indian Act. The reality is that the cost of solving the water issue in Pikangikum will cost over $77 million. It would seem that there are priority and funding blocks, and the government hasn’t done anything to this date.

Through this project we are taking an interim step to addressing this bigger problem., and one model of how to provide water is being demonstrated.

Q: What can we do to encourage the Federal government to address the community’s needs?
A: Canadians are free to express their opinion to their local Member of Parliament and to the Government of Canada.

Q: Are other Indigenous communities affected by similar issues?
A: Yes, many indigenous communities are affected by similar issues.

Q: If other communities are affected by similar issues, why are we focusing on Pikangikum?
A: Feeling called to continue in the process of Reconciliation our Cathedral community is working through PWRDF to find an opportunity to make a difference in a respectful way that is rooted in relationships. Through PWRDF, we are connected to a conversation among several groups who are concerned about water issues in indigenous communities. The relationship with Pikangikum emerged from this conversation.This initiative is considered as a pilot project that provides a model of dynamic partnership among PWRDF, ACIP (Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples) and the Office of the National Anglican Indigenous Bishop.

Funding Questions

Q: What partners are involved in the Right to Water Project?
A: PWRDF is the relief and development agency of the Anglican Church of Canada. PWRDF receivedthe application to provide water to ten homes in Pikangikum, and reviewed the merits of the project according to their policies for development.

Pikangikum Working Group (PWG): is a Toronto based group of professionals who are committed to address needs in the Pikangikum community. At the outset, the role of PWG was to:

  • Work with the Chief and Council to identify the needs of the community;
  • Prepare specific Project Proposals to meet the needs;
  • Identify sources of funding to implement the Project Proposal; and
  • Identify organizations that can implement the Projects.

Now that the project is underway, PWG will monitor and report on the progress of the implementation of the Project to ensure it meets the needs identified by the Chief and Council and the funding organizations.

Frontiers Foundation: Frontiers Foundation is the Implementing Partner and responsible for
administration on the ground.

Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) is an integral part of the governance structure of the Anglican Church of Canada. ACIP is offering wisdom and advice on the development of right relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in the context of this project.

Office of the National Anglican Indigenous Bishop (NAIB) has been the key gathering place for various partners who have been called to this conversation and project.
This initiative is considered as a pilot project that provides a model of dynamic partnership among PWRDF, ACIP and the Office of the NAIB to promote community development among Anglican Indigenous constituencies.

Q: How can we be sure that donated funds are going where we’re told they are?
A: PWRDF monitors development projects around the world on a daily basis. Our confidence comes from the due diligence of PWRDF staff, and through the relationships developed in order to accom- plish this goal.

Q: When / how will we receive updates?
A: Representatives from PWRDF will post regular updates to:

justgeneration.ca: http://www.justgeneration.ca/resources/national-youth-project/ ELCIC: http://elcic.ca/Youth/RightToWater.cfm
Community Questions

Q: Where is Pikangikum?
A: Pikangikum is a remote fly-in town of 2,400 people, located in Northern Ontario, approximately 100 kilometres north of Red Lake. It can only be accessed by winter roads across Lake Pikangikum, or by aircraft. The community has a high birth rate, with about 70-90 babies born there each year.

Q: What is the current state of plumbing / wastewater infrastructure in Pikangikum?
A: Of the 450 homes in the community, 430 (95%) do not have drinking water or wastewater services.

Q: What is the current state of the water treatment plant in Pikangikum?
A: The water treatment plant (WTP) in the community is 16 years old. Through underwater pipes, it delivers water to distribution posts where people collect their drinking water in containers. On April 15, 2011, the First Nation declared a state of emergency due to a lack of potable and running water.

Q: How will this project help clean water get into homes in the community?
A: For each home, the project provides a cistern for the potable water, a holding tank for wastewater, and the necessary fixtures and fittings.

Q: How many homes will receive clean water and a wastewater system as a result of this project?
A: Ten homes will receive clean water and a wastewater system as a result of the overall project. The National Youth Project is aiming to equip one home with clean water and a wastewater system.

Q: What about the remaining homes in the community?
A: The current project is one step in addressing a large problem. Pikangikum leaders and their partners will continue to address water and other issues for the community.

Q: How will equipping 10 homes with this infrastructure positively affect the community’s conditions?
A: By equipping the 10 home with water infrastructure, this project is taking one step to restore dignity and provide hope to the members of the Pikangikum community. During his visit to Pikangikum in November 2013, former National Chief, Sean Atleo, visited one of the first homes to receive running cold and hot water in their home. He remarked that he saw the dignity returned to the family, the 4 generations living in that house.

Q: Is this a sustainable solution?
A: The cistern and wastewater holding tank system were chosen to address the particular geographi- cal context of the community. The project includes training of plumbers and electricians while installing the water and wastewater systems and training of the homeowners to work with operators at the water treatment plant to monitor the safety of the water.

Q: What are the next steps planned to address the sustainability of this project?
A: The leaders in Pikangikum and their partners continue to address 12 priorities for developing a healthy and sustainable community. The current commitment of the National Youth Project is provide water to one home, and to intentionally engage Right to Water issues until the CLAY youth gathering in 2016.

Q: What technology is being used to equip the homes?
A: The water and wastewater system for each home includes:

  • A water holding tank or cistern;
  • A Wastewater holding tank;
  • Water heater and pump to pressurize the water system; and
  • Fixtures and fittings to provide access to the water and wastewater system.

Q: How are households chosen to receive clean water and wastewater systems?
A: The ten homes are being selected by the community. The Chief and Council are responsible for facilitating the selection process and for reporting on the process to the partners in this project.

Q: Why don’t we ask this many questions about providing potable water in Africa?
A: That’s a very good question.

Cultural Questions

Q: What language(s) are spoken in Pikangikum?
A: The Pikangikum First Nation is an Ojibway First Nation. The language spoken is Ojibwemowin, the major dialect of Anishinaabe peoples. A 2005 Wawatay Native Communications Society survey found that the residents of Pikangikum have one of the highest rates of original language retention of any First Nation in Northern Ontario.

Q: What are the local words for water? How do you pronounce that?
A: The Ojibwemowin word for ‘water’is ‘nipi’. (pronounced nee-pee).