FIRST NATIONS DRINKING WATER BILL INSUFFICIENT

First Nations living with boil water advisories, yet Conservatives sunset drinking water and waste water program

OTTAWA - The same week that the Harper government has tabled again in the Senate its latest version of a First Nations safe drinking water bill, they have revealed that the budget of the First Nations drinking water and waste water program is being sunsetted, leaving over $180 million unspent and many First Nation communities still living with boil water advisories.

According to Linda Duncan, MP for Edmonton–Strathcona and New Democrat Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Critic, "This latest bill fails to fully respond to concerns raised by First Nations and legal and technical experts, including the government appointed Expert Panel. All raised concerns with imposing a legal duty and liability on band councils to install and operate drinking water systems compliant with binding standards absent their ability to finance the systems.”

Duncan pointed out that the government has yet to commit the billions needed. The government also appears to have only partially responded to calls for a non-derogation clause.

"Disappointingly", noted Duncan, "the bill imposes no duty on the government to actually consult First Nations in drafting the myriad regulations necessary to give substance to a safe water system."