Water Report Highlights Need For Action

June 7, 2016

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says a report by Human Rights Watch on the lack of access to clean drinking water in First Nations is a call for action by the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action on water and wastewater infrastructure in NAN First Nations.

“Water is a basic human right, and the outdated and insufficient water systems in many of our communities continues to pose a serious threat to the health and safety of our people, which has been well-documented in several reports and studies,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “It is unacceptable that in 2016 the majority of homes in our communities are still not connected to a reliable supply of safe drinking water. We acknowledge the federal government’s funding commitments for First Nations’ infrastructure, including water and wastewater, but we have yet to see improvements at the community level.”

Released today, Make it Safe: Canada’s Obligation to End the First Nations Water Crisis found the lack of access to clean drinking water is a violation of human rights. It calls for “urgent steps” by Canada and Ontario to address boil water advisories and recommends a First Nations-led commission to oversee capital investments in water infrastructure on-reserve.

Currently, there are 37 boil water advisories in 22 NAN First Nations, according to Health Canada. Neskantaga First Nation has been on a boil water advisory for more than 20 years.

NAN and other First Nation organizations are currently engaged with the federal government through a Trilateral Water Working Group to identify water infrastructure needs and develop strategies to more effectively work within existing federal capital funding processes. A sub-geographic model is being utilized to determine short, medium and long-term infrastructure needs and priorities for capital funding priorities.

A 2011 report by the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation found that it would cost approximately $1.1 billion to meet the water and wastewater needs in NAN’s 49 First Nations by replacing or upgrading existing facilities. A cursory overview of water and wastewater systems prepared by NAN in 2011 concluded that:

Nearly all 49 NAN communities have been subject to a boil water advisory 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.

For more information please contact: Tamara Piche, Communications Officer – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (807) 625-4906 or cell (807) 621-5549 or by email tpiche@nan.on.ca.


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