Feds tout progress on clean drinking water

·3 min read

Federal authorities have eradicated more than 100 long-term drinking-water advisories since beginning the project in 2015, Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said earlier this week, but the government still has a long road ahead of it to live up to its campaign promise of 2015 that said all Indigenous communities would be able to have access to clean drinking water by the end of last year.

As of Monday, ‘106 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted. In other words, reliable access to safe drinking water has been restored for 5,920 homes and 447 buildings in 77 communities since November 2015,’ Indigenous Services Canada wrote.’

That leaves 53 long-term advisories in 34 First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across Canada, despite the federal Liberals’ campaign promise of clean drinking water in every Indigenous community by the end of 2020 still remains unfulfilled.

Last December, Miller explained that a confluence of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic had worked against ISC officials in that quest, but that the government remained committed to ridding Indigenous communities of boil-water advisories.

A drinking-water advisory becomes long-term after 12 months of being in place, ISC officials confirmed, with Miller saying every Indigenous community across Canada deserves access to clean drinking water.

“We know progress cannot come quickly enough and one long-term advisory is one too many. One hundred and six long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted to date, and projects are in place to address each of the remaining advisories. Our commitment to improving access to clean water on reserves does not come with a deadline, nor is it limited to our work to lift all long-term drinking water advisories.”

Miller reiterated the government’s commitment to not only providing clean drinking water to First Nations communities, but to helping communities keep that drinking water clean by funding infrastructure and salaries for human resources.

“First Nations communities have now received the first installment of increased operations and maintenance funding. These improvements will provide First Nations a predictable funding stream, which will assist them in making strategic plans for their communities. We will not stop until every First Nation has clean water and we will continue to build the foundation for predictable, lasting solutions that support the unique needs of First Nations communities,” Miller added.

ISC officials wrote that parts of the past two federal budgets have been committed to funding and preserving clean drinking water over the long term.

‘Investments announced as part of Budget 2019 and the 2020 Fall Economic Statement mean that Indigenous Services Canada will be increasing the annual funding it provides First Nations to support the operations and maintenance of water and wastewater systems on a permanent basis by almost four times. With these investments, one hundred percent of water and wastewater operations and maintenance costs will be covered, up from the 80 percent previously covered.’

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase