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Water Legislation Fails to Address Critical Lack of Infrastructure in NAN First Nations

by NationTalk on March 1, 2012126 Views

News Release
For Immediate Release
Thursday March 1, 2012

Thunder Bay, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit has denounced the Government of Canada’s introduction of The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act as an attempt by the federal government to unload its responsibility for water quality to First Nations while failing to address the critical lack of infrastructure in NAN communities.

“We are opposed to this legislation because it will impose water quality standards on impoverished communities that do not have the infrastructure and resources to meet them,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit. “Regulating drinking water does nothing to address the fact that many of our communities do not have access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water in the first place. This is the key issue, and one this legislation completely fails to address.”The legislation was originally introduced in 2010 as Bill S-11, which NAN Chiefs-inAssembly rejected as a misguided attempt by the federal government to download its legal obligation to ensure that First Nations have access to safe and healthy drinking water and wastewater systems. The bill died during the last federal election.

NAN presented a cursory overview of water and wastewater systems in NAN First Nations to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in March 2011. The submission highlighted widespread concerns such as staffing and technical issues and illustrated common issues and service gaps. Findings include:

 Nearly all 49 NAN communities have been subject to a boil water advisory (BWA) in the past five years.
 Nearly every community’s water plant system is in need of replacement or repairs.
 Nearly all communities face a lack of funding for the hiring and training of qualified staff and the safe operation of water systems.

NAN supports the development of water quality standards, but only if such standards are developed in consultation with First Nations and are fully funded by the federal and provincial governments. The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, however, outlines regulations without any provision for capacity and financial resources to support them, including the construction of new water infrastructure, maintenance and repairs to existing facilities, or training for qualified water plant operators.

“For years we have warned of a looming threat to the health and safety of NAN First Nations from drinking water facilities management systems within our communities,” said Louttit. “Water is a basic human right, and continued failure by the federal government to address the drinking water and wastewater needs of NAN First Nations will lead to more boil water advisories, evacuations, and series health risks to our communities.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty No. 5 – an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario. www.nan.on.ca

For more information please contact: Jamie Monastyrski, A/Director of Communications – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (807) 625-4978 or by email jmonastyrski@nan.on.ca

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