The federal government has been "missing in action" during a water-contamination crisis at a remote northern Ontario reserve and should take its responsibilities more seriously, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
It's "unacceptable" that 1,900 residents of the Kashechewan community off James Bay have been living in "deplorable" conditions on Ottawa's watch when it's a federal responsibility to ensure their health, McGuinty said.
The premier called Tuesday for an evacuation of more than half the reserve's 1,900 residents, many of whom are sick from contaminated water. The community has been under a boil-water advisory for two years.
"The federal government is going to have to decide whether or not it's prepared to assume (its) responsibility," McGuinty said before a cabinet meeting.
"If they're not prepared to assume responsibility, then they should talk to not just this premier, but premiers throughout the country and come to a new arrangement because at the present time, according to the rules, they've been missing in action."
McGuinty said he couldn't wait any longer to help residents who have become ill from dirty drinking water while the two levels of government engaged in jurisdictional debates.
Medical teams were scheduled to begin evacuating sick residents as early as Wednesday afternoon.