On Friday, the Government of Canada and announced an investment of $42.7 million in water and wastewater for BC First Nations.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, was in Semiahmoo First Nation to announce $42.7 million in targeted funding through Budget 2016 to support 33 First Nation water and wastewater projects in British Columbia, including four which address long-term drinking water advisories.

“We, as Semiahmoo First Nation are very pleased and honoured to have INAC Minister Bennett visit our community as well as her continued dedication to resolve our water quality and sanitary sewer issues. As elected leadership of Semiahmoo, I see the resolution of both our water supply and sewer servicing as relatively simple to resolve, through cooperative and respectful working relationships with both INAC and our two neighbouring municipalities,” said Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation.

The projects funded are at the feasibility, design, or construction stage. When commissioned, the new systems will provide quality water to First Nation communities with the same access to the level of services enjoyed by all Canadians.

“Ending long term-water advisories on reserves is a key priority for our government. Since November 2015, we have lifted seven long-term drinking water advisories in British Columbia,” said Minister Bennet. “And today’s announcement reaffirms our commitment to ensure that First Nation communities can turn their taps on to clean drinking water. We will get this done in partnership with First Nations. The will is there, the capacity is growing, and people are truly committed to finding long-term solutions.”

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Of these 33 projects, four will address long-term drinking water advisories. In addition, an investment of $338,000 is going toward the design of a new water distribution and wastewater sewer system in Semiahmoo First Nation which will address the long-term drinking water advisory in that community.

“We are pleased with the support we are receiving from INAC for funding for design of water and wastewater services for the Nation. This gives us the ability to design a system that will be able to deliver clean, safe drinking water and wastewater sewer servicing to our Nation’s members, the servicing that residents of Surrey currently enjoy. We are also pleased that INAC is assisting us in our discussions with the City of Surrey as we negotiate a service agreement for our community,” said Chief Chappell.

As of June 1, 2017, Semiahmoo is one of seven BC First Nations with long-term Drinking Water Advisories affecting federally-funded systems. Other communities include Bonaparte, Stellat’en First Nation, T’it’q’et, Tl’azt’en Nation, Wet’suwet’en, and Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government. The Government of Canada is also working with these First Nations to address their advisories.

Cover image courtesy of Peace Arch News.

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