Dec 27, 2021

The Federal Court of Canada Approves Settlement Over Contaminated Drinking Water on Indigenous Reserves

The settlement will compensate First Nations for the decades they have gone without access to clean water

canada water

The Federal Court of Canada approved a multi-billion-dollar legal settlement that requires the government to take quicker action to clean up contaminated drinking water on Indigenous reserves. 

The settlement will also compensate First Nations for the decades they have gone without access to clean water, reported The New York Times.

Under the settlement the government will commit to spend at least 6 billion Canadian dollars over nine years to fund water infrastructure and operations on hundreds of reserves. The government will also pay 1.5 billion dollars in damages to about 140,000 Indigenous people.

In March, the government missed a deadline imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide Indigenous reserves with adequate water and wastewater systems by March 31 2021.

A government audit weighed the scope of the contaminated water on Indigenous reserves.

“Overall, Indigenous Services Canada did not provide the support necessary to ensure that First Nations communities have ongoing access to safe drinking water,” said the audit. “Drinking water advisories remained a constant for many communities, with almost half of the existing advisories in place for more than a decade.”

As of November 2020, most drinking water advisories in First Nations communities were boil-water advisories, according to the audit.

The audit recommends that Indigenous Services Canada, in consultation with First Nations, should develop and implement a regulatory regime for safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

Since the federal government’s commitment in 2015, there were a total of 160 long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems in First Nations communities. As of November 1, 2020, 100 (62.5%) of these long-term advisories had been eliminated and 60 (37.5%) remained in effect in 41 First Nations communities.

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