Amanda Klasing, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, specializes in the right to clean water.
“She likes to take a bath, but [the water] irritates her skin,” Susan said of her active two-year-old daughter. When the little girl was 18 months old, Susan started to notice rashes all over her daughter’s legs. “I thought it was something from the grass,” she said. Instead, a doctor informed her that the baby’s rash was probably from her water. Susan can’t bathe her daughter at home now; she takes her to a daycare centre or relative’s house.
Susan lives in Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario, where I spoke to her and other families in February to learn about living under a “do not consume” water advisory.
The water in the well that supplies her home is contaminated with uranium; water trucked in from a local treatment plant to fill a cistern at her house has dangerous levels of a cancer-causing byproduct that comes from treating dirty source water.
I have visited many countries conducting human rights research for Human Rights Watch. Canada, with its global reputation as a rights-respecting country with bountiful fresh water, was the last place I expected to encounter parents worried that their water could harm their children.
While investigating Human Rights Watch’s report on the drinking water crisis in Ontario First Nations, I spoke to dozens of parents and grandparents who cannot trust their water – which can weigh heavily on the heart and mind.
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