On the heels of a recent critical report from the federal auditor general, Indigenous Services Canada says a new website will help track progress on ending long-term drinking water advisories that remain in 38 First Nations communities.
The new website, developed with the Indigenous firm Animikii, offers detailed plans and progress reports for about 58 active advisories remaining in affected communities.
The site tracks elements such as construction progress. For instance, clicking on the advisories for Bearskin Lake First Nation in Ontario reveals that project leaders are installing a new cistern at the community and youth centre, and are also designing a new water treatment system for the reserve’s nursing station. Both projects are expected to be completed by June 2021, the website notes.
“Canadians, in particular First Nations that are under long-term water advisories, want to get as much information about what the plan is and what’s going on in their fellow communities,” Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller announced at a recent press conference.
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Ontario has by far the most ongoing long-term advisories with 44 spread across 26 communities, according to the new website.
Chief Eric Redhead of Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba, told CBC News that the new website is simply a way for the government to justify its delays on providing First Nations proper access to clean water.
Earlier this year, Auditor General Karen Hogan said she was “honestly disheartened” by the federal government’s inability to resolve outstanding First Nations water issues by its self-imposed March 2021 deadline. One of Hogan’s primary criticisms was that Indigenous Services Canada had not amended its operations and maintenance funding formula for First Nations water systems since it was first developed 30 years ago.
Indigenous Services Canada won’t set a new deadline yet for lifting all remaining long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, but Miller assured that his commitment remains “firm.”
Earlier this month, two long-term water advisories were lifted in Canada. One in British Columbia’s Xeni Gwet’in First Nations, and another in Ontario’s Wauzhushk Onigum. Both communities had new water treatment systems installed.