Ottawa to announce new strategy for lifting long-term drinking water advisories on re…

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As part of a new strategy, the federal government is launching a new website to track progress on lifting long-term drinking water advisories on reserves, according to a senior government source. 

The new strategy will not include any new money or a deadline, but will see Indigenous Services Canada play a bigger role in working with communities to help choose contractors.

The government will not be producing a list of bad actors, as some have called for, because the contracts belong to First Nations and the department doesn’t want to impose solutions. 

Before he was prime minister, Justin Trudeau promised to lift all boil water advisories within five years of coming into office. 

CBC News reported last October that the government would be missing its March 2021 target by years, which Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller later acknowledged, and pledged to spend more than $1.5 billion to finish the work.

New approach comes after scathing auditor general report

Last month, Auditor General Karen Hogan called Ottawa out for not doing enough to ensure people in First Nations have reliable access to safe drinking water.

Hogan found Indigenous Services Canada has been constrained by a funding policy that hasn’t been updated in 30 years, and by the lack of a regulatory regime.

“I am very concerned and honestly disheartened that this longstanding issue is still not resolved,” Hogan said.

“Access to safe drinking water is a basic human necessity. I don’t believe anyone would say that this is in any way an acceptable situation in Canada in 2021.”

A sign in Neskantaga First Nation, where people have been living with a long-term drinking water advisory for 26 years. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Hogan recommended Indigenous Services Canada work with First Nations to proactively identify and address deficiencies in water systems, with a focus on long-term solutions that prevent recurring problems. 

She also called on the government to commit sufficient funding to operations and maintenance of water infrastructure and pass legislation that includes legal protections comparable to those in other communities in Canada.

There are currently 59 long-term drinking water advisories in 40 communities, according to Indigenous Services Canada. 

Each community still on a long-term drinking water advisory will have its own web page on the new government website, with a detailed plan and progress reports, as a way for the department to be more transparent.

The new website was developed with an Indigenous firm called Animikii.



www.cbc.ca 2021-03-10 15:30:00

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