July 19, 2011

Linda Duncan, Official Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development today pledged to work with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit to hold the federal government accountable for its failure to address the critical issue of safe drinking water on First Nations reserves.

“Although alarm bells have been ringing for years, things continue to deteriorate for First Nations – former Auditor General Sheila Fraser emphasized this in her final report,” said Duncan.

“The Walkerton tragedy forced a clampdown on drinking water safety in Canadian municipalities, yet we continue to stand by and watch this building crisis in First Nation and Métis communities. It is deplorable.”

The “National Assessment of Water and Wastewater Systems in First Nation Communities”, released late Thursday, is an assessment of water and wastewater systems serving 571 First Nation communities that was conducted between 2009 and 2011. It ranked a shocking 39% of drinking water systems in First Nation communities “high risk” and a further 34% at a “moderate risk” level.

Linda Duncan, who authored a book, “A legal guide to Aboriginal Drinking Water”, called on the federal Conservative government to take urgent action to direct both financial resources and priority towards improving the situation and immediately acting to ensure safe drinking water – not bottled water – is available to all First Nation communities.

“But instead of expedited action, we get yet another assessment,” she added.

“Furthermore, we need parallel action from the federal government on protecting source water, such as the Peace River and the Athabasca,” said Duncan.