Addressing Water and Wastewater issues on reserves a priority – John Duncan

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Minister John Duncan
Minister John Duncan

OTTAWA – Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says “Our Government is committed to addressing water and wastewater issues on reserve to ensure that First Nations communities have access to safe drinking water. That is why we are taking concrete action to support First Nations in operating their water and waste-water systems on reserve.”

Today in Thunder Bay, Water Walkers will start a walk from the city heading to Nipigon to join an Idle No More rally on Wednesday.

The federal government will inject $330.8 million over the next two years to sustain progress made to build and renovate water and wastewater infrastructure on reserve and to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in First Nation communities.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) state, “First Nations right to use and manage our precious water resources derive from the Creator and sacred responsibility has been given to us to protect it. The management of water resources and the protection of source water is a right that First Nations have not relinquished through Treaties. It is a crucial and paramount requirement that First Nations be consulted and accommodated in any policy, legal and other decisions related to this precious resource”.

The number of First Nations communities which are under boil water orders has increased since 2007, and there were 103 communities under order in 2008, several more, 111, in 2009. There were 119 communities under boil water orders in 2010 and 131 in 2011.

 Capital Investments to Target Risk

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) says they will prioritize capital investments to target high and medium risk systems, in over 50 First Nation communities, including Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan; Tallcree First Nation, Alberta; and Nazko First Nation in British Columbia.

There are over thirty communities in Ontario under the Health Canada Boil Water Orders.  “All First Nation communities now have access to trained personnel who can monitor their drinking water or test water quality at the tap,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. “This provides First Nation residents with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health.”

Funding Plans Allocated by AANDC

Year one of this funding will be allocated by AANDC in 2012-2013 in three areas of planned expenditures: $47.7 million for operations and maintenance, $32.1 million for training for First Nations and $47.3 million for capital investments. Health Canada will support First Nations with an investment of $27.4 million each year to build capacity, enhance drinking water quality monitoring, maintain a national wastewater program, increase public awareness and review project proposals from a public health perspective. Chiefs and Councils will continue to be responsible for public health measures, such as issuing drinking water advisories in the affected communities, communicating the information to residents and addressing drinking water quality problems.

This investment builds on the approximately $197.5 million the Harper Government invests annually for water and wastewater programs in First Nation communities. Between 2006 and 2014, the Harper Government will have invested approximately $3 billion across the country to support First Nation communities in managing their water and wastewater infrastructure and in related public-health activities.

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