Message about bad water on reserves not getting through: study
Health Canada says it plans to revamp its communication strategy about drinking water in aboriginal communities after finding out that its warning ads are not working.
Federal Health Minister Tony Clement said Thursday a study has found that its ads, which come in the form of signs and posters, are not clear or effective.
"You live and learn in these things," Clement said in Ottawa.
"This was a situation where something was tried, it was found to be wanting so we are going to fix it and make sure it's more effective in the future."
A total of 89 First Nations communities in Canada were under a drinking water advisory as of May 4. Among other things, Health Canada was trying to warn people in these communities not to drink their tap water.
Clement said Health Canada will take a more personal approach by using new radio ads and going door-to-door to educate people in aboriginal communities about their tap water this fall.
Considering some of these communities have been without safe drinking water for years and years, perhaps the problem isn't the signage.
One sign posted on a reserve by Health Canada reads: "Do Not Consume Advisory."
According to the study, residents did not know if the sign referred to their tap water or if the advisory was just a suggestion.
The study also found that posters used by Health Canada were confusing.
Chief David General of Six Nations in Ontario said he is aware that people in his community drink their tap water even though it is not safe and that some people get sick as a result.
General said many people do not even notice the signs that warn them not to drink tap water.
"It has to be more than just the static sign that just everybody walks by. It's got to be something that is more eye-catching."
Health Canada says a drinking water advisory is a way to advise members of the public in a specific community that they should use an alternative source of drinking water.
It says it is a measure designed to protect public health from waterborne contaminants that could be present in drinking water.
In March 2006, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice launched a plan of action to address drinking water problems in First Nation communities.
General said many aboriginal communities would rather have a new water plant instead of a new communications strategy.
Is it just me, or is this article rather patronizing?
If one were to read this article without any background, one would think the problem is the fault of the aboriginals themselves, as if they aren't smart enough to understand not to drink their tap water. They don't mention that many people drink their water because they can't afford bottled water, or because they sometimes have to walk for miles to get clean water.
The problem isn't the communications strategy (although I must admit that was pretty crappy - apparently one of the signs had a calm scene of a mother bathing her baby - gee I wonder why the water appears safe!).
As of May 4, 2007, there were 89 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory, and many more are considered "at risk". Many are so contaminated with things like arsenic, so boiling doesn't make it safe. Residents of these communities often get skin rashes from bathing in the water.
It's criminal this this wealthy nation isn't supplying safe water to its most marginalized communities.
That is one of the many reasons why our First Nations communities experience living conditions equal to those ranking 63rd in the world - in other words they live in Third World conditions. It contributes to the low life expectancy of aboriginals (consistently around 5-7 years less than the rest of the Canadian population).