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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Update 2017/5/15
First Nation water


By Cori Marshall

Since coming to power, the Liberal government has made improvements to the approach taken regarding the provision of safe clean drinking water to First Nations communities. Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) have likewise made improvements to the reporting system, and more importantly, have addressed a number of long-term water advisories in several communities. We followed up with both federal departments to gain greater insight into the work that is being funded by $1.8 billion budget allocation.

There were still questions surrounding the time it takes to commission parts, of an entire water supply system. For example, the Toosey First Nation has been under advisory since November 2004 and brought a new system online in December of 2016. Today, just as we reported in February, the community's water distribution system is still under advisory.

When approached, INAC reiterated that the government "is moving forward with a long-term strategy to address water and wastewater infrastructure issues in First Nations communities." Addressing the time it takes to properly ensure that systems are in proper working order the department stated that "it can take several months between the completion and commissioning." Before the advisory can be revoked the "filtration and disinfection systems need to be observed in operation."

INAC has provided us with the list of the systems and communities that have been taken off long-term water advisories. As of the end of February "there are now 19 long-term water advisories which have been lifted on INAC-funded systems." The systems have all been removed from the list since November 17, 2015, one had been under advisory since 1999.

The long-term issues that have been addressed are only in four regions Atlantic (4), Ontario (5), Saskatchewan (5), and British Columbia (5).

As we learned it is the responsibility of the First Nation community to issue the drinking water advisory after being notified by Health Canada of a concern. What was not clear was how notifications were made and if there was a follow-up procedure.

Once the Chief and Council have made the decision to issue a Drinking Water Advisory "they are required to [issue a notification], verbally and in writing, [to] community members, the general public, government health officials, and the media," according to Health Canada. The department added that there are numerous ways of communicating the information such as a "calling tree, posters, newspaper announcements, door hanger notices and radio public service announcements."

The federal department has developed useful kits to help First Nations communities navigate water advisory incidents. There is the Water Advisory Tool Kit, which contains the actual advisory notice all that has to be done is add the community and date. The 2007 Procedure for Addressing Drinking Water Advisories in First Nations Communities South of 60 lays out the roles and responsibilities of the First Nation and government departments.

List of Long-Term Advisories in First Nation Communities Revoked Since November 2015

Region First Nation System Name Date Set Date Revoked
Atlantic Abegweit Morell PWS 2009/04/29 2015/11/17
Atlantic Abegweit Rocky Point PWS 2008/01/10 2015/11/20
Atlantic Pabineau Pabineau PWS 2005/06/01 2016/07/14
Atlantic Potlotek Potlotek PWS 2015/02/13 2016/05/27
Ontario Constance Lake Constance Lake PWS 2014/04/10 2016/09/16
Ontario Pic Mobert Pic Mobert North PWS 2010/01/29 2016/06/20
Ontario Pic Mobert Pic Mobert South PWS 2008/02/26 2016/12/16
Ontario Rocky Bay Rocky Bay PWS 2015/08/10 2016/08/11
Ontario Taykwa Tagamou Taykwa Tagamou PWS 2011/04/14 2016/10/28
Saskatchewan Cumberland House Pemmican Portage PWS 2015/03/18 2016/04/20
Saskatchewan Cumberland House Cumberland House PWS 2015/03/18 2016/08/02
Saskatchewan Nekaneet Nekaneet PWS 2013/08/26 2016/11/30
Saskatchewan Nekaneet Upper Camp PWS 2013/08/26 2016/11/30
Saskatchewan Sweetgrass Sweetgrass PWS 2002/01/11 2017/01/26
British Columbia Alexis Creek Alexis Creek CWS 2003/10/15 2016/10/21
British Columbia Esk'etemc Esket CWS 2004/10/21 2016/03/22
British Columbia Nazco Nazco CWS 1999/01/01 2015/11/20

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