Canada to Improve First Nations' Water

The government of Canada recently announced the next steps in its plan to improve the delivery of clean, safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

Chuck Strahl, minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians, and Steven Fletcher, parliamentary secretary, announced a $330 million two-year investment in a First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan. Fletcher also announced a Drinking Water Advisory Toolkit.

"Our government launched a water action plan in 2006 because conditions were unacceptable and, as a result, we have seen more than half of high-risk systems removed from the high-risk list," said Strahl. "The work is not yet done, and today I'm proud to announce the next steps to ensure First Nation communities have the clean, safe water they deserve."

As its next steps, the government of Canada will:

• Nearly double the number of trainers in the Circuit Rider Training Program, which provides training to First Nation water operators;

• Conduct a national assessment of water and wastewater systems in all First Nations communities to help establish a future, long-term investment strategy;

• Set clear standards to guide First Nations in the planning, design and operations of water and wastewater systems, as well as small facilities including wells and septic systems; and

• Consult with First Nation communities, regional First Nation organizations and provincial/territorial governments on the creation of a federal legislative framework for drinking water and wastewater on reserve.

Ken Mattes, who has been involved in the Circuit Rider Training Program since its inception, is a senior instructor and trouble shooter for all First Nation water and wastewater systems in Manitoba through the West Region Tribal Council.

"The provision of clean, safe drinking water and the protection of the environment are key components of a healthy lifestyle in First Nation communities in Canada," Mattes said. "On behalf of all of the Circuit Rider Trainers and staff in Canada, I congratulate INAC and Health Canada for their foresight in, first establishing, and now expanding this program."

The government of Canada will also continue to increase public awareness of drinking water quality issues for First Nation leaders and community members by distributing the toolkit, which includes public service announcements, print advertisements, posters and door hangers, to help community leaders to communicate essential information to residents. It will be distributed to environmental health officers, chiefs and councils.

"This government is committed to assisting First Nation communities in providing their residents with safe drinking water," said Parliamentary Secretary Fletcher. "Public awareness is an essential part of our work, and we will continue to develop effective tools with input from First Nations, so that residents can understand drinking water quality issues and make informed choices about how to protect their health."

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