Government of Canada Reports Substantial Progress in Improving First Nation Water Quality

In less than two years, Government reduces the number of high-risk First Nation water systems by over half.

NIPISSING FIRST NATION, ONTARIO – (Marketwire – Jan. 17, 2008) – The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians, today released a progress report on the Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities, outlining improvements made in water quality on reserves across Canada.

The release of the report fulfills a commitment, made as part of the plan of action, to report on progress on a regular basis.

“In March 2006, our government introduced a water plan of action that significantly changed the way water quality was addressed in First Nation communities,” said Minister Strahl. “We are committed to ensuring that residents of First Nations enjoy the same protection afforded other Canadians when it comes to drinking water. Since coming to office, we have reduced by over half the number of high risk First Nation water systems.”

This number of high-risk water systems has reduced from 193 to 85. Also in 2006, 21 communities were identified as priorities, which meant that the community had both a high-risk system and a drinking water advisory. Today, only six communities remain on that list.

“The progress we are seeing is because of our government’s commitment to work with First Nations communities and deliver real results,” added Strahl.

The progress report also references a Procedure for Addressing Drinking Water Advisories in First Nations Communities South of 600 (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fnih-spni/pubs/water-eau/2007_water-qualit-eau/index_e.html), developed by Health Canada, in partnership with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and First Nation stakeholders. It promotes a team approach to addressing drinking water advisories.

“Our goal is to provide communities with the support they need so that drinking water advisories can be lifted as soon as possible,” said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health. “We are committed to working with First Nations communities to increase their capacity to prevent and respond to drinking water quality issues. This new procedure will be an important tool in achieving this objective.”

Minister Strahl also highlighted several Ontario First Nations who, under the plan of action, have received funding support for water projects that will benefit their communities. Over $61 million went to the following Ontario First Nations in 2006-2007 for upgrading existing and building new water and wastewater systems:

– Nipissing First Nation

– Moose Deer Point First Nation

– Henvey Inlet First Nation

– Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek

– Mattagami First Nation

– Saugeen First Nation

– Red Rock First Nation

“I’m pleased to see the progress that is being announced today in many of our First Nation communities,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, Anishinabek Nation. “First Nations in Ontario want to work with Canada, not just on the projects highlighted today, but in all possible efforts to ensure a reliable supply of clean, safe drinking water on reserve. Ultimately, we want to improve the living conditions for our people so we have healthy and safe communities.”

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BACKGROUNDER

FEDERAL INVESTMENTS IN FIRST NATION
WATER AND WASTEWATER SYSTEMS IN ONTARIO

Nipissing First Nation – $15.1 million: funding for two water infrastructure projects at Nipissing First Nation’s Garden Village community. One project (worth approximately $14.1 million) involves building new water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as watermains and sewermains. Construction has started and is expected to take approximately two years. Completion of this project will remove the high risk rating of the water treatment system in this community.

The second project, which is already underway, involves the development of an 84 lot subdivision, which includes roads, ditches, watermains and sewermains. It is being cost-shared between the First Nation ($2.6 million) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) ($1.0 million).

Nipissing First Nation, located on the north shore of Lake Nipissing between the City of North Bay and the town of Sturgeon Falls, has approximately 2,100 members, 840 of whom live on reserve.

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