The Trudeau government, which once this year in First Nations promised to end all long-term drinking water advisories, now estimates it could take as long as 2026.
The new timeline was not announced by the minister, who is responsible, but it is revealed in government documents that Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) officials submitted to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. The documents said the department will continue to work with First Nations to implement projects that meet the needs of all communities affected by the long-term drinking water advisory, and focus on an expected completion date of March, 2026.
The documents did not explain why it would take another five years.
Ottawa launches website to inform progress on drinking water advice in First Nations communities
Since 1977, Ottawa has spent billions trying – and failing – to bring clean water to every reserve
Ottawa pressured to fulfill promise to end all long-term drinking water advisories to First Nations
During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised that a Liberal government would end all long-term advice to First Nations by 2021, and set March as the later target month. But in December, Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller said it was out of reach. Up to this point, his department had not indicated a new date for when the advice might be removed. The ISC also said that the pandemic added challenges with infrastructure projects.
In a statement late Tuesday, Mr Miller’s spokesman, Adrienne Waupshas, said all current long-term boil-water advisories were expected to be lifted “in the near future”. He said the estimated completion date of March, 2026, represents the time frame that the department expects to complete all long-term solutions in communities where interim solutions are in, or will be implemented.
She said that at present, only a long-term project is estimated to be needed at this time, and First Nations is expected to lift its long-term drinking water advisory by June, 2021.
“Estimated construction completion dates are subject to change,” she said. “The pandemic has affected several water and waste water projects, resulting in delays. Necessary public health measures, lack of contractor and human resources, and supply chain disruptions are creating delays in meeting targets. “
Earlier on Tuesday, Perry Belgaard, national head of the House of the First Nations, said the federal government was promising to end the boil-water advisory from 2015. Many communities have gone without clean drinking water for decades before and after this promise, he said.
“The news that advice can be given by 2026 is not disappointing, it is unacceptable,” he said. “First nations have a right to clean, safe drinking water.” He said that while the situation is a product of inaction on the part of all prior governments, he now wants clear communication from Indigenous Services Canada.
NDP MP Nicky Ashton also said it was unacceptable that the Liberal government broke its promise to end all long-term drinking water advisories by 2021, and it was unacceptable that it was pushing back the date to 2026.
“This is an important issue,” she said. “This is clearly a violation of human rights.”
Ms Ashton said First Nations deserved to hear from the minister about how the government plans to immediately end the long-standing drinking water advisory.
Ms. Waupshas also said Ottawa Since 2015 has worked with First Nations leaders and communities to support them in determining what work is needed and to find the most appropriate solutions. She said that in most cases, there are two ways to proceed: upgrading or repairing an existing water treatment plant or related infrastructure, or building a new water treatment plant.
She said that every community that still has a long-term drinking water advisory has a project team, an action plan, and people dedicated to removing the order.
The ISC website said that as of April 9, there were 52 long-term drinking water advisories in 33 communities. Some communities have more than one.
Long-term consultations are those that have been in place for more than a year. They are issued by First Nations when tests show that their water is not safe to drink. Communities themselves decide when to seek advice, and Ottawa says helping them get to that point is a complicated process. Federal officials say they work with communities to address health and safety issues and ensure that water-treatment facilities are properly operated and maintained.
Find out what’s happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary, handpicked by Granthshala editors (clients only). .