Dartmouth, Unceded Traditional Mi’kmaq Territory NS – It’s now official after an agreement was formally signed in Halifax on November 7: the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) becomes the first Indigenous Water Utility in the country. This is a significant milestone as it puts control of water and wastewater management firmly in the hands of First Nations.
The transfer agreement was signed Monday by Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority, Carl Yates, CEO of AFNWA, and Patty Hajdu, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services. It initiates the transfer of responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater assets in participating First Nations to the Indigenous-led AFNWA.
The transfer agreement enables First Nations to now officially join the water authority after receiving approval from their community members. Once complete, the AFNWA will assume responsibility for water and wastewater services for as many as 4,500 households and businesses located in up to 17 participating First Nations. This represents approximately 60% of the on-reserve population of First Nation communities in Atlantic Canada.
AFNWA will support all water and wastewater operators to become certified to operate their respective facilities and maintain their certification through continuing education. The Authority will work with staff to identify their career development goals and support them with education and on the job training, wherever possible. AFNWA will also work to develop capacity within communities by hiring trainees and supporting their career development.
The service delivery transfer agreement sets out both ISC’s and the AFNWA’s mutual obligations, accountability, and understanding for implementation. Through Indigenous Services Canada, the federal government has committed approximately $257 million in funding for this work, including $173 million over 10 years from Budget 2022 that will provide sustainable funding for operations and capital programs.
“This has been a long time in the making and we are grateful to the leadership and commitment from our communities to get us to this milestone. We look forward to building capacity and increasing the level of service to standards enjoyed by other residents of Canada. We have blazed a trail for others to follow but that is the way of the Wabanaki who have always been first to see the dawn.” – Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall
Chair of the Board, Atlantic First Nations Water Authority
“Congratulations to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) on becoming the first Indigenous water and wastewater utility in the country. By signing this transfer agreement, we take another step forward in our reconciliation efforts. The work of AFNWA will contribute to safer and healthier First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada and provides a fantastic model for other regions.” – The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
- The AFNWA is a First Nations-owned, not-for-profit organization incorporated in 2018 to manage the delivery of safe, clean drinking water and wastewater in participating First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada.
- This service delivery transfer agreement allows for participating First Nations to become members of the AFNWA. The agreement transfers responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater assets in participating First Nations to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.
- In June 2020, Indigenous Services Canada and the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority signed a Framework Agreement that outlined the negotiation process and the roles and responsibilities for all parties and defined the relationship between Indigenous Services Canada and the AFNWA going forward under this new First Nation-led, service delivery model.