OTTAWA – Liberal Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, today called on the government to fully fund improvements to First Nations Water and Wastewater systems on reserves, including the development of training and management capacity, and conduct a meaningful and productive consultation on legislation concerning safe drinking water.
“The completion of the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems underscores the government’s continued neglect, with nearly 1,800 reserve homes without water or sewage service, and $1.2 billion required immediately to bring these systems up to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s own protocol,” said Dr. Bennett. “The problem is far more serious than previously reported, with 39% of First Nations drinking water systems rated as high risk by the assessment. The government has an obligation to commit additional new funding to address the immediate needs, in addition to an estimated $4.7 billion over the next 10 years.”
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has previously stated that the government will not be providing any new funding for First Nations water and wastewater systems on reserve, and that the government intends only to re-introduce legislation as a remedy to this crisis.
“While there is a recognized need for a legislative framework for safe drinking water, the government must uphold its duty to work in partnership with First Nations, and more importantly, ensure that the revised legislation is reflective of the concerns raised during the consultation process. Further, this new collaborative framework must be supported by increases in water and wastewater, funding as outlined in the National Assessment. These consultations and financial commitments must be made before the re-introduction of any legislation.” said Dr. Bennett. “The U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has endorsed, must serve as the basis for future discussions on this and any other matter affecting First Nations in Canada.”
Dr. Bennett will be consulting with First Nations throughout the summer regarding the government’s legislative approach to First Nations water and wastewater systems on reserve.