WINNIPEG (CityNews) – The Federal Auditor General is speaking out, expressing her disappointment over the unresolved issues of access to clean drinking water on First Nations reserves.
“I am very concerned and honestly disheartened that this long standing issue is still not resolved,” said Auditor General Karen Hogan.
“Drinking water advisory’s have remained a constant in many communities with almost half outstanding for more than 10 years.”
Hogan presented her report Thursday in Ottawa, highlighting Indigenous Services Canada’s target to end all boil water advisory’s by March of this year, as being unachievable. She also indicated in her report the government wont be able to meet its pledge of lifting all boil water advisers for several more years.
Southern Chief’s Organization, Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, represents 34 First Nations and 80,000 citizens. Daniels says, it’s time for the Canadian Government to let the First Nations Government bring clean drinking water to their people. He says, Water infrastructure projects that should have been completed years ago sit unfinished, money is being wasted, and the sooner people wake up to this the better off Canada will be.
“Because it’s our people’s lives, it’s our children lives that are playing into all of this, and we need to see it happen sooner rather than later,” explained Daniels.
Daniels adds his government wants to take over the clean water projects and work with key stakeholders to mirror best practices for installing clean water infrastructure in the Country. Stating removing bureaucratic barriers allow communities to maximize use of the infrastructure money available to make sure any treatment plants that are being built are up to standard.
“There are no standards for on reserve First Nations. So ISC… really hasn’t been doing very well in terms of ensuring the water quality meets what generally accepted standards for water should be in the province or in Canada.
“I don’t believe anyone would say that this is in any way an acceptable situation in Canada in 2021.”
The Government of Canada says everyone should have access to safe, clean drinking water.
“In alignment with the Office of the Auditor General’s recommendations, we will continue to work with First Nations to conduct performance inspections of water systems annually, and asset condition assessments every three years, to identify deficiencies. We will work with communities to address those deficiencies, prevent recurring advisories and invest in long-term solutions,” said Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller in a statement.