Progress update on the Government of Canada's commitment to clean water in First Nations communities

News release

April 1, 2021 — Ottawa, Traditional Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

The Government of Canada continues to work towards improving access to clean and safe drinking water for all First Nations communities.

Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, provided an update on the Government's commitment to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves.

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.

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, reaching this number is a testament to five and a half years of real progress.

We are pleased to confirm that Semiahmoo First Nation lifted a long-term advisory on March 31, 2021, after successfully connecting their community to the municipal water system in nearby Surrey, British Columbia, restoring reliable access to clean drinking water for all community households.

This lifting 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's commitment to clean water in First Nations communities goes beyond our 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 our 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 their 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 their band office water system. The advisory had been in place on a well serving the band office since September 26, 2019, and 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. 25 homes and 6 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

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.

Quotes

 "Today marks an important milestone in our shared commitment to improve access to clean and reliable drinking water. 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. 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."

The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services

Quick facts

  • A drinking water advisory becomes long-term when it has been in place for more than a year. Between November 2015 and March 31, 2021, 105 long-term advisories affecting public systems on reserves were lifted. 54 remain in effect in 34 First Nations.

  • As of December 31, 2020, more than $1.82 billion of targeted funds has been allocated to support 694 water and wastewater projects in 581 First Nations communities, serving approximately 463,000 people. A total of 393 of these projects are complete.

  • In December 2020, the Government of Canada announced an additional $1.5 billion to help accelerate the work being done to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves, to better support the operation and maintenance of systems, and to continue program investments in water and wastewater infrastructure. This funding includes $616.3 million over six years, and $114.1 million ongoing, to increase the support provided for operations and maintenance of water and wastewater infrastructure on reserves. 

  • Through the Investing in Canada Plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada's rural and northern communities. 

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Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Adrienne Vaupshas
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
adrienne.vaupshas@canada.ca

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada
819-953-1160
SAC.media.ISC@canada.ca

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