Safe Water a Priority – AFN


OTTAWA –  Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated today that legislation introduced in Parliament on First Nations drinking water – Bill S-11- will not in its current form meet the stated objective of ensuring First Nations have access to safe drinking water.

“This legislation will create new regulations for First Nations drinking water but does not specify how First Nations will be equipped with the facilities, skills and resources to meet those regulations,” said National Chief Atleo. “First Nations need infrastructure, training and support to meet the requirements of the new regulations. Regulations without the capacity and financial resources to support them will only set up First Nations to fail and to be punished for this. In my view, we must address the ‘capacity gap’ as well as the ‘regulatory gap’. After all, the safety and health of First Nations people is the stated goal.”

As of March 2010, 114 First Nations communities across the country were under Drinking Water Advisories and 49 First Nations water systems were classified as “high risk”. Bill S-11, introduced in Parliament May 25, does not include a plan to reduce these unacceptably high numbers or the duration of First Nations drinking water advisories; does not help to license operators; does not provide resources to improve operations and maintenance; does not lower the number of water and wastewater treatment systems currently at risk; and could negatively impact First Nations water rights.

“Furthermore, this legislation has failed to take advantage of recommendations made by the government’s own Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water,” National Chief Atleo stated. “We must build on these recommendations and move forward based on the rights of First Nations peoples and governments and design solutions in full collaboration. Our communities have a clear understanding of the real needs and challenges in delivering safe drinking water and our voices must be heard.”

The National Chief noted a national audit that assesses the capacity and needs for clean drinking water in First Nations communities is underway and is near completion. This is important in order to have a full understanding of the current situation as a baseline of information. A 2006 report by the federal government’s own Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water also provides a solid starting point to address First Nations water issues.

“Every family in this country should have access to clean, safe drinking water and First Nations should not be an exception,” said the National Chief.

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