Government Of Canada Announces Next Important Steps To Improve Drinking Water In First Nations Communities
Ottawa (April 15, 2008) -The Government of Canada today announced the next steps in its plan to improve the delivery of clean, safe drinking water in First Nations communities. The announcement builds on the significant progress made since the Government first launched its Plan of Action in March 2006, which has resulted in 108 of the total 193 First Nation water systems being removed from a high risk category.The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, and Steven Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary, on behalf of the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, announced a $330 million two-year investment in a First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan. In addition, a Drinking Water Advisory Toolkit was announced by Steven Fletcher.
“Our Government launched a water action plan in 2006 because conditions were unacceptable and, as a result, we have seen more than half of high-risk systems removed from the high-risk list,” said Minister Strahl. “The work is not yet done, and today I’m proud to announce the next steps to ensure First Nation communities have the clean, safe water they deserve.”
As its next steps, the Government of Canada will:
– Nearly double the number of trainers in the Circuit Rider Training Program, which provides training to First Nation water operators;
– Conduct a national assessment of water and wastewater systems in all First Nations communities to help establish our future, long-term investment strategy;
– Set clear standards to guide First Nations in the planning, design and operations of water and wastewater systems, as well as small facilities including wells and septic systems; and
– Consult with First Nation communities, regional First Nation organizations and provincial/territorial governments on the creation of a federal legislative framework for drinking water and wastewater on reserve.
Ken Mattes, who has been involved in the Circuit Rider Training Program since its inception, is currently a senior instructor and trouble shooter for all First Nation water and wastewater systems in Manitoba through the West Region Tribal Council.
“The provision of clean, safe drinking water and the protection of the environment are key components of a healthy lifestyle in First Nation communities in Canada,” said Mr. Mattes. “On behalf of all of the Circuit Rider Trainers and staff in Canada, I congratulate INAC and Health Canada for their foresight in, first establishing, and now expanding this program.”
The Government of Canada will also continue to increase public awareness of drinking water quality issues for First Nation leaders and community members by distributing a Drinking Water Advisory Toolkit. This kit, which includes public service announcements, print advertisements, posters and door hangers, has been designed to make it easier and faster for community leaders to communicate essential information to residents about the quality of their water supply. It will be distributed to Environmental Health Officers, Chiefs and Councils.
“This Government is committed to assisting First Nation communities in providing their residents with safe drinking water,” said Parliamentary Secretary Fletcher. “Public awareness is an essential part of our work, and we will continue to develop effective tools with input from First Nations, so that residents can understand drinking water quality issues and make informed choices about how to protect their health.”
Minister Strahl added: “We want First Nations to have increased confidence in the quality of their drinking water, and we are committed to working in partnership with First Nations day-by-day to complete the work required on this important priority.”
For more information on the Government of Canada’s Action Plan to improve drinking water in First Nations communities, please visit: http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/h2o/index_e.html
This news release and backgrounder on FNWWAP is also available on the Internet at www.inac-ainc.gc.ca.
Backgrounder – First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan
For further information please contact:
Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
Minister Clement’s Office
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
INAC Media Relations
Health Canada Media Relations
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada