Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde opened the National Housing and Infrastructure Forum in Winnipeg, MB, on November 1st by calling for a First Nations-led strategy and national action plan to put forward solutions to ensure safe and healthy housing and infrastructure for all First Nations with a strong focus on water and wastewater.

“Our people live the reality of the housing and infrastructure deficit everyday. We do have the expertise and the experience to develop the right solutions, and we invite partners in government, industry, and the public to work with us,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

Speaking on November 2nd, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, discussed government investment, specifically funds for water infrastructure for First Nations communities.

Minister Bennett recapped 2016’s $1.8 billion, five-year investment in First Nations on-reserve water infrastructure and announced $142 million in new funding over five years for water monitoring and testing.

This reflected the comments of the National Chief on the 1st who said, “Every First Nation family and individual, no matter where they live, deserves to live in a healthy home that is safe, dry, and free of overcrowding.” And Chief Bellegarde continued: “They deserve clean drinking water and communities with essential government services including infrastructure facilities. We must make this a priority as we eliminate the social and economic gap between Indigenous peoples and others in Canada.”

In 2016, the federal government has worked with First Nations on 195 water and wastewater projects, including 25 that intend to address 34 long-term drinking water advisories in 24 communities.

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In Manitoba, work has already started on 22 water and wastewater projects in 19 Manitoba First Nations. The projects will benefit more than 27,000 band members on reserve.

Commenting on the recent Keewaytinook Okimakanak or KO Safe Water Hub project, Minister Bennet said, “The men and women behind this project are training and certifying local water and wastewater plant operators and provide 24/7 emergency support services for communities.”

Visit the Assembly of First Nations for more on their infrastructure forum.

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