Canadian Government Introduces Legislation to Protect First Nations’ Drinking Water
Currently no standards exist to govern First Nations’ water quality
The Canadian government is taking action to ensure First Nations have access to safe and reliable drinking water. John Duncan, minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, announced the introduction of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, aimed at helping to protect drinking water on First Nation lands.
"At the recent Crown-First Nations Gathering, First Nations and our government committed to working together to support strong, healthy First Nation communities," Duncan said. "The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act is a key milestone in making this a reality and a vital step towards ensuring First Nations have the same health and safety protections for drinking water in their communities as other Canadians."
Between 2006 and 2013, the government of Canada will have invested approximately $2.5 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure and related public health activities to support First Nation communities in managing their water and wastewater systems. A total of 130 major water and wastewater projects were completed between 2006 and 2010. Almost 120,000 individuals living in these First Nation communities have benefitted from these investments.
"Improving water conditions in First Nation communities is an issue of great concern for our government. I am pleased that proposed legislation is moving forward as it will provide us with another mechanism to help protect the health and safety of First Nations across the country," said Leona Aglukkaq, minister of health.
While provinces and territories each have their own safe drinking water standards, there are currently no legally enforceable standards and protocols governing water quality on First Nation lands. The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act would allow the federal government, in collaboration with First Nations, to develop federal regulations for access to safe drinking water, and to ensure the effective treatment of wastewater and the protection of sources of drinking water on First Nation lands.
"This proposed legislation lays the foundation for the future work of First Nations and the government to work together on developing regulations that will better safeguard community drinking water systems. We are looking forward to starting this important work, and believe that future generations will benefit once these regulations are in place," said Grand Chief Cameron Alexis of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and grand chief of Treaty 6 (Alberta).
"First Nations will be able to look forward to having the same protections that other Canadians have around the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of wastewater in their communities. This is not only an important health and safety issue, but will help build confidence in our infrastructure and help create a better climate for investment," said Chief Lawrence Paul of Millbrook First Nation and Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs secretariat co-chair (Nova Scotia).