C/O Yoohyun Park

Concerns raised surrounding clean drinking water access in Indigenous communities

At the beginning of October, Iqaluit residents began noticing an odour in their tap water and some expressed feeling ill. After an initial inspection of the treatment plant and water samples on Oct. 4, the city of Iqaluit determined that the water was safe to drink. However, a second investigation on Oct. 12 yielded different results. 

Since Oct. 12, Iqaluit has been under a state of emergency and residents have been advised not to drink tap water, even after boiling or filtering it, due to a presence of fuel in the water supply. 

Since Oct. 12, Iqaluit has been under a state of emergency and residents have been advised not to drink tap water, even after boiling or filtering it, due to a presence of fuel in the water supply.

Amarah Hasham-Steele, News Reporter

On Oct. 24, the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in Iqaluit to set up a reverse osmosis water purification system. The CAF is purifying water from Iqaluit’s Sylvia Grinnell River and transporting it to a city water truck, which then transports it to water filling depots. 

Until the arrival of the CAF, residents were receiving bottled water from distribution sites and collecting water from the Sylvia Grinnell River. 

While the CAF is providing residents with potable water, trucked water deliveries in Iqaluit will no longer contain potable water as of Tuesday, Nov. 9. While residents can still use trucked water deliveries for bathing, laundry, handwashing and dishwashing, they are no longer able to drink it. 

The state of emergency in Iqaluit is currently set to last until Nov. 23. 

At McMaster University, Makasa Looking Horse is actively involved in projects that address water needs for Indigenous communities. One such project is the Global Water Futures project, which Looking Horse is the educational lead for. 

Global Water Futures is a Canadian university-led research project aiming to manage water futures in areas with cold climates, such as Canada, and landscapes changing due to global warming. 

“Global Water Futures aims to position Canada as a global leader in water science for cold regions and will address the strategic needs of the Canadian economy in adapting to change and managing risks of uncertain water futures and extreme events,” stated the Global Water Futures website

Looking Horse highlighted that water crises in Indigenous communities are not uncommon and that they can happen for a multitude of reasons. She explained that water crises occur when there are problems with treatment plants and when there are problems piping water from treatment plants to households. 

“Infrastructure within Canada for Indigenous communities is in really bad shape,” said Looking Horse. 

“Infrastructure within Canada for Indigenous communities is in really bad shape.”

Makasa Looking Horse, Educational Lead of the global Water futures project

In 2015, 126 drinking water advisories existed in First Nations, prompting the federal government to commit to resolving them by March of 2021. However, inadequate funding was allocated to meeting this goal and many advisories remain in effect. Water-borne diseases occur within First Nations 26 times more than the national average and people living on reserves are currently 90 times more likely to have no access to running water compared to non-Indigenous people living off reserves. 

On Nov. 3, the Cooperative Indigenous Students Studies and Alumni at McMaster shared a post about the Iqaluit water crisis and noted how the federal government has not kept their promise to eliminate water advisories in Indigenous communities. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by C.I.S.S.A. (@cissaatmac)

Mainly, CISSA referred to the fact that 58 advisories still remain despite prime minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to eliminate all long-term boil water advisories by March of 2021. 

“It has become abundantly clear that one cannot disentangle social conditions from health conditions and that the causes of recurrent Indigenous water insecurity are rooted in sociopolitical neglect. The lack of access to clean, safe water is a reflection of long standing political and economic marginalization,” stated CISSA in their post

For McMaster students, Looking Horse noted that there are always ways to help make clean water more accessible in general.

“Whether it's donating water to the food bank or cleaning up [garbage], whatever you want to work on, whether that's writing or doing something physical, you can definitely do something to make a difference,” said Looking Horse. 

“Whether it's donating water to the food bank or cleaning up [garbage], whatever you want to work on, whether that's writing or doing something physical, you can definitely do something to make a difference.”

Makasa Looking Horse, Educational Lead of the global Water futures project

Looking Horse has extensive experience protecting access to water for Indigenous communities. Beyond her role in Global Water Futures, she did a lot of advocacy work to protect the Six Nations water supply when she found out that Nestle was taking 3.6 million litres of water from the Six Nations aquifer without the community’s permission. 

Within Global Water Futures, Looking Horse has been part of multiple community projects, such as tracking snapping turtles on Six Nations to collect more data about the environment. 

“This kind of project really hasn't hasn't existed before and so we're super proud [of it]. It's a water project on Six Nations that all of these different professors at McMaster University and other universities and different departments are working [on] together,” said Looking Horse. 

The water crisis continues to be a significant issue in Iqaluit and across Indigenous communities, with many long-term water advisories still in effect and goals to resolve them not being met. McMaster students interested in taking action can refer to CISSA’s social media posts with more information on petitions to sign and links where donations can be made. 

Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives, Graphics by Sukaina Imam

On Jan. 30, 2017, the McMaster Students Union announced plans to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Union Market as part of a strategy to work towards a more sustainable campus.

However in the fall of 2017, the newly elected board of directors decided to return single use bottled water to Union Market. Soon afterwards, boxed water was pulled from shelves.

Proponents of the boxed water project say that it was the first step of a plan to work towards sustainability on campus. According to others, the project was doomed from the beginning.



Former MSU president Justin Monaco-Barnes introduced boxed water as a more environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water. Monaco-Barnes was elected on a platform of sustainability, and had included the implementation of boxed water in his campaign.

Boxed water cartons are recyclable and made from well-managed forests. Furthermore, less energy is required to ship, produce and package boxed water bottles.

Prior to making the decision to phase out single use plastic water bottles, the MSU Advocacy team, led by Blake Oliver, had compiled a research report considering the sustainability, marketability, and financial considerations of implementing boxed water.

According to Monaco-Barnes, boxed water was meant to be the first step in a long-term plan to push the university to eliminate single use plastic water bottles altogether. By taking a moral stance against single use plastic water bottles, the board of directors hoped to encourage the rest of the university to follow suit.

Monaco-Barnes stated the next step in the project would have been to implement a water bottle filling station at Union Market complete with options for adding flavour and carbonation.

“By selling plastic water bottles again and undoing this ban, the MSU has effectively undone not only the work that was put into this effort, but has also undone the planned multi-staged process by removing the underlying principle,” stated Monaco-Barnes in a letter responding to the decision.



According to Jeffrey Campana, the current Union Market manager, the main issue with boxed water was the financial losses. Bottled water had been one of Union Market’s top selling items, and the switch to boxed water led to revenue losses resulting from both a lack of student interest and a lower profit margin on boxed water.

Campana was a cashier at the time that boxed water was introduced. He stated that the lack of interest in boxed water was a result of a higher cost, reluctance to purchase an unfamiliar product and an ineffective advertising campaign.

Boxed water was more expensive than the least expensive bottled water. For example, Eska was sold for $1.13 for a 500 mL bottle, while a box of water the same size cost $2.49.

Additionally, Campana noted that students were hesitant to purchase boxed water due to its unusual design. Since there were other places on campus that continued to sell bottled water, consumers were not forced to make the switch to boxed water.

Campana also stated that students were not effectively incentivized to purchase boxed water. In early January the MSU produced posters and infographics giving information about the environmental impact of bottled water. The graphics were displayed in Union Market.

However, according to both Campana and the 2016-2017 Union Market manager, a more robust and long term marketing campaign might have made boxed water sell more successfully.

The previous Union Market manager stated that she had not been properly consulted when deciding to phase out bottled water and market boxed water. The decision to transition to boxed water came as a directive from the board of directors instead of being a result of collaboration with Union Market Management.

Generally, the part time manager of Union Market is responsible for deciding what items to stock. However, since Union Market is owned and operated by the MSU, the students union president and board of directors can make decisions about what is sold.

If she had been consulted, the previous Union Market manager stated that she would have worked towards a long term advertising plan in preparation for the introduction of boxed water.

“I don't think it would have had the same results had I been a part of it like effectively,” she stated.

In addition to being more expensive for consumers, boxed was also more expensive to produce. This meant that Union Market made less money off of each unit of boxed water sold than what they made off of bottled water.

“I think it's a great product, I just would never sell it. Simply because I don't make money off of it, the MSU doesn't make money off it,” said Campana.

For Monaco-Barnes however, the overall purpose of the campaign was not to sell more boxed water. Ideally, students would switch to reusable water bottles and would therefore stop buying water from Union Market altogether.

Monaco-Barnes had anticipated that a revenue loss was likely to occur. However from his perspective, the environmental considerations outweighed the financial losses.

“Because it's such an important cause, becoming more sustainable and reducing carbon footprint, I think it's okay if it's going to take a bit of a financial hit,” said Monaco-Barnes. “That's the crux with sustainability […] if it was an easy, cheap, simple solution, everyone would be doing it," he added.



To help offset some of the financial losses from the removal of bottled water, the board of directors decided to raise the costs of other best-selling items at Union Market such as chocolate milk. In 2017, the price of chocolate milk increased from $1.86 to $2.25.

According to MSU General Manager John McGowan, prices were raised so that Union Market could continue to financially support its cost centres. However, they not raised to the point of recoupling the lost revenue from bottled water, as this would have made prices unaffordable.

According to the Union Market manager at the time, however, this price increase was not enough to make up the losses from bottled water sales.

Bottled water has since been reintroduced, meaning that Union Market is no longer facing revenue losses resulting from its absence. However, the price of chocolate milk has not been brought back down, despite being raised to help compensate the loss of bottled water.

Campana noted that the price of chocolate milk may still have increased due to inflation.

“$1.86 is miles away from being financially sound in 2019,” stated Campana.



Monaco-Barnes noted that the structure of the MSU makes continuity difficult. Due to the high rate of turnover in student government, long-term projects often do not get seen to completion.

While the overall project was ambitious, the implementation gap and lack of year to year continuity meant that the boxed water plan was short-lived.


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Photo C/O Sevran Mammadov

By: Graham West

After a tremendous end to the season in which the men’s water polo team won bronze and the women’s water polo team finished fifth at the Ontario University Athletics tournament, the team looks to have a great season ahead next year, guided by the water polo OUA Coach of the Year Quinn Fairley.

This is the fourth time coach Fairley has received this award, and when asked about what winning coach of the year meant to the venerated coach’s response was quick to point out how much the team was involved in the award.

“The team really looked together,” Fairley said. “The way the guys operated in the water, the way that they communicated with each other. They were just a really together unit, and for me to win Coach of the Year, it’s an absolute compliment to them.”

Part of coach Fairley’s success can be attributed to his past experience as a player for the McMaster water polo team.

“I can relate to exactly what they’ve done,” Fairley said. “Especially as a McMaster player, you know going through the OUA season, going through midterms and all of the external stresses that a varsity athlete would have.”

He took a different approach with playing time for the season, to get more players in the pool. This tactic was successful as the players believed in each other’s abilities to make an impact in the pool, even though some players received less playing time for the purpose of chemistry.

“When I think of character, we put in a different system of substituting,” Fairley said. “Which meant some people actually played less than they might have in years past, because we just took a little different focus and a different way of going about it, and this is where the team brought in to it and then brought in to each other.”

Chemistry, camaraderie and depth are what coach Fairley attributes to their success during the season and at the OUA championship. Utilizing everyone's capabilities and having a great foundation of trust in all of his players, regardless of experience, has been a great contribution to the water polo teams.

“What we’re building on more so is camaraderie, using a couple of key pieces but, the other side of our team especially by the minutes and by playing time we were without a doubt one of the deeper teams in the league,” Fairley said. “We made a huge step in culture, we made a huge step in the way that we operate together, and that’s really what the result is.”

After battling through adversity such as injuries and other issues over the past few seasons, getting a medal at the OUA tournament was really important to many players on the team. As something that has escaped the team for a few years, making the podium was definitely one of the highlights of the tournament.

“We’ve had teams that I’ve thought, and think still to this day, should have medaled prior to this year for circumstances, whether it be a poor performance or injuries or whatever, we just never got it done,” Fairley said.

The water polo teams will look to repeat their success next year, building off of this year’s newfound success while continuing the new culture of trust developed by coach Fairley as they strive to receive a medal once more.


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Flint is one of Hamilton’s sister cities. It is located in the state of Michigan, and it has a population of 102,434. It would take roughly four hours to fly there, and like Hamilton, it was built upon a prominent trade industry (in our case, steel; in theirs, lumber). We don’t typically have much to do with Flint, and most of the time the idea of a “sister city” seems like something arbitrarily assigned across the globe.

Our status as sister cities was made official by Sister Cities International, and we have been linked to them — along with our other sister city, Fukuyama, Japan — for close to 60 years.


We aren’t very close, geographically or socially, but we hold a connection with them that is beyond our local bounds. For those who do not know, the citizens of Flint are currently the victims of a water crisis. Their only sources of water have been contaminated due to old and poorly maintained piping infrastructure made of lead, and their water is currently considered poisonous. They need $55 million dollars to fix the existing damage, and their citizens, including children, the elderly and animals, are falling ill at a rapid pace.

We know that they need help, and we know that we’re intrinsically on their side, but why aren’t we, as a community, doing anything?


Hamilton’s Mayor Eisenberg has reached out to the mayor of Flint, offering to provide necessary aid, but aside from one dedicated citizen donating a few thousand water bottles to the city, we don’t have much else to show for ourselves in terms of providing tangible help in any form. And when I refer to “us” or “our,” I don’t necessarily just mean the city as a whole, but the separate McMaster community as well.

It’s an age-old fact that McMaster students have found it difficult to assimilate into the city and become members of the community. But so long as we are living, working, or being educated here, we are part of the “City of Hamilton.” And with that being said, we are more connected to our brothers and sisters in Flint than any other university community.

Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities.

Flint has multiple colleges and universities within its borders. Students and faculty are people who are being affected by this lead poisoning, and if we were in their place, the support of our sister university could mean a lot and make a difference.

The University and its hospital are two of the largest businesses in the city. Even if the city may not necessarily be able to provide some form of financial support to the citizens of Flint, it could be possible that the lucrative business of our institution could be able to provide help in some way, shape or form.


Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities, a shortcoming that we have been trying to mend. Many people have no idea that Flint is Hamilton’s sister city, let alone that Hamilton has sister cities. While most students can get away with going a full undergrad not getting to know their city, when something like this comes up, as members of this community, we should be proactive (as we are with many other initiatives on campus) in doing something to help or raise awareness for this cause. As a campus, the biggest thing we have going for us, outside of our finances, are our numbers. We have bodies, and lots of them, who can stand up and make a difference for a municipality that doesn’t have a lot of support from elsewhere, and one that is an innate part of our own city culture.

Not too far from us, and not too long ago, the town of Walkerton, Ontario was in a somewhat similar situation with an E. coli problem. The town benefited from the help of its neighbours, and Flint is now in an even worse situation that needs dire help. We may not always identify with this city we live in, but when Hamilton and its related communities needs us, we need to be there to help facilitate action and effort.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Cook/ Reuters

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Kevin Maynard
The Silhouette

Most people are familiar with the fluoridated goop at the dentist and the painstaking sixty seconds leaning over a sink, fighting the urge to swallow. This is followed by a thorough rinse as the dentist ensures none of the paste is accidently consumed. Not swallowing is a viagra prescription online common trend for just about all products containing fluoride; toothpaste and mouthwash being no exception.

So why is it water, the most fundamental necessity to humans, is being contaminated with fluoride and ingested every day?

For nearly 50 years, Hamilton has added fluoride to their drinking water, claiming that it is essential in preventing tooth decay.

Recent studies prove otherwise.

One of the most compelling arguments to continue water fluoridation is the decline in tooth decay since its origin. This is persuasive, but misleading. The World Health Organization has found that developed countries across the world have shown a decrease in tooth decay, whether they were fluoridated or not.

This contrasting study does not appear on the City of Hamilton’s Public Services website. Instead, all the information is given as a bias to continue fluoridation, creating a monopoly of knowledge that has suppressed the voice of Hamilton residents.

A community can only overpower this monopoly if it bands together and creates awareness.

The City of Hamilton also states that fluoride is naturally occurring, and almost everyone would agree that natural is healthier. Yet, there are many dangerous compounds found “naturally” on earth. An example is arsenic, one of the most poisonous chemicals known to humans.

The same can be argued about fluoride, which may as well pose serious health problems. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health states there are strong indications that fluoride is linked to declined neural development. Senior author and professor of environmental health at Harvard, Philippe Grandjean, explains, “Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain.”

There are some benefits to fluoride, obviously. Most dentists agree that as a topical agent, fluoride rebuilds and repairs tooth enamel. These benefits are most prevalent if applied directly, not ingested. Therefore, if the average person isn’t rinsing their mouth with fluoridated water before swallowing it, the benefits are minimal.

But there can be too much fluoride.

Fluorosis is a condition the WHO says is caused by ingestion of excess fluoride. Fluorosis is a defect in tooth enamel, shown by white spots and occasionally brown streaks.

With these studies, it seems odd that over 90 dental and health organizations support fluoridation. The City of Hamilton’s website gives links to 14 of these. Of the first six of these links, four led to “sorry, we cannot find the page you requested,” one had no scientific proof and the other was dated ten years ago.

The municipal government makes decisions regarding drinking water, and with outdated information like this, it is inevitable change will not occur. Awareness is the only option.

According to The City of Hamilton, fluoridation is an attempt to provide everyone with access to oral hygiene products. Economically speaking, there are much deeper issues in Hamilton if that many people cannot afford toothpaste and a toothbrush.

The average cost to fluoridate Hamilton’s drinking water each year is $2.50 per household; money that could easily be used to help provide oral hygiene products for those in need. Poverty is clearly the issue Hamilton needs to address, not oral hygiene.

It is barbaric to unwillingly expose Hamilton residents to this chemical. The people should have a right to choose what they are consuming, and more importantly, understand the health risks associated with it. An older generation’s idea is currently being used as a quick-fix approach to solving oral hygiene problems. It is time for the city to abandon this preconceived view and attack the root of the problem.

Citizens of Hamilton will be exposed to this water for many upcoming years, whether they approve or not.

As of right now, there is no choice.

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