Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, has provided an update on the Government of Canada’s commitment to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves.
“Today marks an important milestone in our shared commitment to improve access to clean and reliable drinking water,” said Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services. “In November 2015, there were 105 long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on reserves.”
“As of today, by working in partnership, First Nations communities have lifted 105 long-term drinking water advisories,” added Miller. “There are currently no long-term drinking water advisories in effect on public systems in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec or the Atlantic provinces. We will not stop until we lift the remaining 54 advisories.”
As of March 31, 2021, 105 long-term drinking water advisories and 177 short-term drinking water advisories have been lifted and access to clean water has been restored to approximately 5,920 homes in First Nations communities.
According to the Government of Canada, reaching 105 long-term drinking water advisories lifted marks a significant milestone—matching the number in place when this Government committed to eliminating all long- term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves. While additional advisories have been added over time, both by expanding the scope of the commitment and short-term advisories becoming long-term, the Government of Canada noted that reaching this number is a testament to five and a half years of real progress.
This also represents a significant milestone as First Nations communities in British Columbia now have zero active long-term drinking water advisories affecting their public water systems. Since November 2015, First Nations communities have lifted 20 long-term drinking water advisories from public systems on reserves in B.C.
The Government of Canada noted its commitment to clean water in First Nations communities goes beyond its work to eliminate long-term drinking water advisories. Providing a stable and long-term source of funds to support operations and maintenance costs is imperative to preventing drinking water advisories from re-occurring by enabling First Nations to adequately maintain water and wastewater infrastructure and to better support water operators.
As announced in December 2020, the Government of Canada committed an additional $616.3 million over six years, and $114.1 million per year ongoing thereafter to increase long-term operations and maintenance funding for First Nations communities. O&M funding increases for 2020-2021 are currently being transferred to First Nations as a top-up to cover 100 per cent of O&M costs according to the funding formula.
Progress on lifting long-term drinking water advisories
Since the Government of Canada’s last progress update on March 10, 2021, First Nations, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, have lifted four long-term drinking water advisories.
Semiahmoo First Nation (BC) as of March 31, 2021
Semiahmoo First Nation has lifted a long-term drinking water advisory that affected its community water system. The advisory, set on October 13, 2005, was lifted on March 31, 2021 after work was completed to connect the community to the municipal water system in nearby Surrey, British Columbia. Work to connect the community included remediating and reconstructing a road to enable new water and sewer pipes to be installed. The Government of Canada invested over $15.5 million in this project. All 40 houses now have access to safe and reliable drinking water.
Little Saskatchewan First Nation (MB) as of March 23, 2021
Little Saskatchewan First Nation has lifted a long-term drinking water advisory affecting its band office water system. The advisory had been in place on a well serving the band office since September 26, 2019. It was lifted on March 23, 2021 after the First Nation moved the office to a new location and connected the building to the community’s piped water and sewer systems. The existing well has been decommissioned. Indigenous Services Canada invested over $330,000 in this project.
Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (SK) as of March 22, 2021
Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation has lifted a long-term drinking water advisory that affected the Chief Joseph Custer distribution system. The advisory, in place since August 20, 2019, was lifted on March 22, 2021 after water samples at the affected homes and buildings showed satisfactory chlorine residuals, acceptable bacteriological results, and safe drinking water quality. Indigenous Services Canada invested over $2.6 million in this project.
Wet’suwet’en First Nation (BC) as of March 18, 2021
Wet’suwet’en First Nation has lifted a long-term drinking water advisory from the Palling Community Water System. The advisory, in place since March 13, 2012, was lifted on March 18, 2021 after interim upgrades to the existing water treatment plant were completed. Twenty five homes and six community buildings, including the band office and the health center, now have access to reliable, clean drinking water. Indigenous Services Canada invested $200 000 for these upgrades and continues to support the community to implement a long-term solution including new wells and a new water treatment plant. Work is currently underway.
Progress on lifting short-term drinking water advisories
Additionally, since March 10, 2021, two short-term drinking water advisories were lifted: one in Little Red River Cree Nation (AB) and another in Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation (ON) restoring access to clean water for residents in both communities.