Together with First Nations leadership, Minister Patty Hajdu introduces a Bill to support clean drinking water in First Nations communities

News release

Bill C-61 is the next step to ensure First Nations have clean drinking water for generations to come.

December 11, 2023 — Ottawa, Unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

Everyone in Canada should have access to safe and clean drinking water. First Nations have long called for legislation that affirms their inherent rights, recognizes their stewardship in keeping water clean and meets First Nations needs. Effective legislation, a national regulatory regime, and First Nations-led institutions are essential to supporting sustainable access to clean, safe and reliable drinking water in First Nations communities.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, introduced a Bill in the House of Commons as part of the Government’s commitment to establish new proposed safe drinking water and wastewater legislation in consultation with First Nations.

Aligned with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the proposed legislation was developed through extensive engagement that put First Nations voices at the forefront. Canada worked directly with First Nation rights-holders, including Modern Treaty and Self-Governing First Nations, through their own representative institutions, and First Nation organizations including the Assembly of First Nations, to help ensure the Bill is responsive to First Nations’ needs and priorities. In the spirit of partnership, and to encourage feedback from as many First Nations as possible, consultation drafts were posted online. Engagement leading to this bill began in 2018.

Bill C-61 would affirm the inherent right of First Nations to self-government. It would ensure that First Nations have more tools necessary to protect source water and maintain drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in a self-determined way. It would hold the federal government accountable to continued funding investments in water infrastructure. It would also lead to the application of minimum standards for clean drinking water in every First Nation and lay the groundwork for the creation of a First Nation-led water institution to support communities.

More specifically, the Bill would:

  • Require the Minister of Indigenous Services to make best efforts, in consultation and cooperation with First Nations, to provide access to safe drinking water on First Nation lands;
  • Strengthen funding commitments through best efforts to provide adequate and sustainable funding for water services on First Nation lands comparable to services received in non-First Nations communities;
  • Require that funding, at a minimum, meets the commitment of expenditures set out in the 2021 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Settlement Agreement;
  • Establish minimum national standards for drinking water and wastewater on First Nation lands, based on First Nation choice;
  • Facilitate water agreements, including transboundary source water protection agreements (First Nations, Canada, and provincial and territorial governments) and bilateral financial agreements between First Nations and Canada to support the exercise of First Nation jurisdiction;
  • Commit to supporting the establishment of a First Nations Water Commission to assist First Nations in exercising greater control over their drinking water and wastewater services; and
  • Support the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including through consultation and cooperation on federal regulatory and funding allocation decisions.

The Government of Canada’s commitment to sustainable access to clean and safe drinking water in First Nations communities does not end with the introduction of this Bill. The Government of Canada will continue to work with rights-holders and First Nation organizations to ensure access to safe drinking water now and for future generations.


“Today is an important beginning. The First Nations Clean Water Act will hold this, and every future government, accountable to implementing and upholding First Nations’ inherent and treaty rights to water. We will use the tools in this legislation to protect the water as keepers of the lands and resources for all the generations to come.”

Erica Beaudin
Cowessess First Nation Chief

“Our Chiefs in Atlantic Canada have always supported the idea of legislation linked to detailed regulations to address water, wastewater and related infrastructure. This is a key reason we began work over a decade ago on establishing Canada’s first Indigenous-led water utility—the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority. The proposed legislation is a great start and a unique opportunity for First Nations to take control of a service critical to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our communities. The Atlantic Chiefs are supportive of its introduction and look forward to providing testimony to the committee to refine the legislation, ensuring that it works for First Nations across Canada.”

Chief Bob Gloade
Co-Chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat

“For our people, water is an important traditional cultural value and has been a critical part of all our communities in the past and future. Safe drinking water is a fundamental human right and it is our expectation that this legislation and further investments will make this a reality for all First Nations in Canada.”

Chief Shelley Sabattis
Co-Chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat

“Created with First Nations, this legislation is the foundation of clean and safe drinking water for generations to come. It establishes the rights and supports that should have always been there for First Nations. It creates the tools First Nations need to manage their water systems and ensure the water they draw from is safe. It holds the federal government accountable to provide sustainable funding so that communities never have to live with unsafe water. And it is thanks to the extensive expertise, work, and guidance of First Nations partners that this legislation will lead to a future where no one has to grow up without clean drinking water ever again.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Quick facts

  • The 2021 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Class Action Settlement Agreement committed Canada to making all reasonable efforts to develop and introduce proposed legislation, in consultation with First Nations, to replace the repealed 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.

  • First Nations have continued to underscore the importance of recognizing their rights, providing sustainable funding for drinking and wastewater services, protecting source water, and maintaining ongoing engagement on water issues that affect First Nations. This is consistent with Canada-led engagement in 2017–2018, Assembly of First Nations-led engagement since 2018, Canada-led engagement in spring 2022 on repeal of the 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, and engagement on consultation drafts of the legislative proposal posted publicly in advance of introducing this Bill.

  • The 2021 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Class Action Settlement Agreement claim deadline for individuals and the acceptance deadline for First Nations have been extended by one year. First Nations and individuals affected by long-term drinking water advisories on First Nation lands that lasted for at least one year between November 20, 1995, and June 20, 2021, have until March 7, 2024, to submit claims for compensation.

  • The Government of Canada is working with First Nations communities to achieve safe and clean drinking water on First Nation lands. As of December 11, 2023, and since November 2015, First Nations have lifted 143 long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on First Nation lands.

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For more information, media may contact:

Simon Ross
Director of Communications and Issues Management
Office of the Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

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