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Council campaigner Lui calls on Trudeau to end First Nation boil water advisories

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui is calling on the Trudeau government to make “real change happen” on the right to water in First Nations across this country.

The Province reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the topic an election campaign issue, pledging in October 2015 to end boil-water advisories in First Nations communities within five years.”

The article adds, “Last month, the Council of Canadians and the David Suzuki Foundation released a report, assessing the government’s progress in the first year of its commitment. The authors reported: ‘The federal government will not meet its commitment to end all drinking water advisories affecting First Nations communities by 2020 without significant changes to current processes.'”

“Following the release of last month’s report, one of the contributors, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui, analyzed government figures on more than 150 drinking-water advisories in First Nations communities in Canada.”

The article concludes, “Lui’s analysis showed as many as a quarter of First Nations people on reserves in Canada could be affected by drinking-water advisories. Her analysis of data obtained from Health Canada showed no significant decrease in the overall number of on-reserve drinking-water advisories since 2010.”

While Indigenous Affairs says, “We are currently on target to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on INAC-funded systems in First Nations communities within the five-year deadline”, the numbers do not substantiate that claim.

The federal government-commissioned ‘National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems’ estimated it would cost $4.7 billion over a ten year period to meet the department’s protocols for water and wastewater services for First Nations communities, including an immediate $1.2 billion to deal with high-risk systems. It also estimated that $889 million is needed every year for First Nations water and wastewater facilities including projected operating and maintenance.

Lui has commented, “The Liberal government’s Budget 2016 allocated $2.24 billion over the next five years for improving on reserve water and wastewater infrastructure and waste management. But rather than the immediate $1.2 billion recommended, the government will spend $296 million in year one and $322 million in year two. The average annual expenditure will be about $448 million and a large portion of this spending has been back-ended. It falls short of what is needed.”

Now, Budget 2017 states, “Over the last year, the Government has lifted 18 long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, and is on track to eliminate all remaining advisories by March 2021.”

But just last month, CBC reported, “Since November 2015, 18 [long-term drinking water advisories] have been lifted, allowing the communities to drink their tap water. But 12 advisories have been added, according to figures provided by the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.”