Drinking Water Advisories: Current Problems


June 29, 2021

Class Action Lawsuits

Marten Falls First Nation

Marten Falls First Nation – has agreed to join the class-action litigation on drinking water advisories in First Nation communities, which will be led by Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend (OKT) LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Marten Falls has decided to participate in this class-action lawsuit because it has been under a boil water advisory for over 20 years. The lack of potable water in the community has resulted in illness, an unnecessary loss of opportunities amongst community members, and a burdensome distribution process.

Bottled water is flown into the community and distributed to community members at the airport. Marten Falls is responsible for paying the upfront costs of these water resources and their transportation, which can cost up to $40,000 per month. Although the federal government reimburses Marten Falls for these expenses, the cost of buying and transporting water puts a significant strain on the community’s limited financial resources. The reimbursement process is also slow and partial since the community shares water with non-band members in the community like teachers, contractors, and guest workers who are not covered. To put this into perspective, from 2014-2015, Marten Falls had to wait an entire fiscal year to be reimbursed for its bottled water.
The objective of this class-action is two-fold.

  • First, it sets out to obtain compensation for First Nations affected by drinking water advisories
  • Second, it endeavours to obtain a declaration from Canada that it will work with First Nations to provide access to clean water, which includes requiring Canada to construct and fund water systems for communities.

The Chief and Council of Marten Falls believe that by participating in this legal challenge, the community’s water crisis can finally come to an end for the long-term. Marten Falls has suffered enough, and the community’s infrastructure issues need support and long-term operations and maintenance commitments.
Marten Falls faces other long-standing issues that relate directly to the neglect of infrastructure in First Nations communities, as the boil water advisory example illustrates.

One of the greatest challenges that Marten Falls faces to date is a lack of critical community infrastructure. The community has faced many challenges associated with its water treatment facility and lack of transportation infrastructure, housing, communal buildings, and community-based apparatus. Although issues with the water treatment facility are being resolved and transportation infrastructure is slowly being addressed through community participation in the Ring of Fire infrastructure projects, Marten Falls continues to chronically lack housing and firefighting infrastructure.

These are systemic issues, and they require the attention of Canadian governments and Indigenous organizations. The governments of Canada and Ontario must come to the table on these issues with our governments.

December 8, 2020

Drinking Water Emergency

Shamattawa First Nation

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc – Letter to PM Trudeau – With 264 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a community of just over 1000 people, Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba immediate assistance from your office to help us evacuate the Elders of Shamattawa to ensure they are able to safely isolate in closer proximity to health services, should they develop complications from COVID-19.

We need to ensure Elders and anyone with underlying health issues are able to access emergency health services should the need arrive. Health infrastructure and services are not set up to assist Shamattawa with an outbreak this large in scale. We know from the data in Manitoba that First Nations people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The people from our communities are being hospitalized and put into intensive care units at higher rates than non-Indigenous Manitobans.

July 30, 2021

Class Action Lawsuits

Tataskweyak, Curve Lake and Neskantaga First Nations sign an historic Agreement-in- Principle

“Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Curve Lake First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation, together with the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, announced that an historic Agreement in Principle has been reached through a successful negotiation process to resolve national class action litigation related to safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

This Agreement in Principle addresses important concerns identified by First Nations represented in the class action lawsuits.

The agreement includes the following:

  • $1.5 billion in compensation for individuals deprived of clean drinking water;
  • he creation of a $400 million First Nation Economic and Cultural Restoration Fund;
  • a renewed commitment to Canada’s Action Plan for the lifting of all long-term drinking water advisories;
  • the creation of a First Nations Advisory Committee on Safe Drinking Water;
  • support for First Nations to develop their own safe drinking water by-laws and initiatives;
  • a commitment of at least $6 billion to support reliable access to safe drinking water on reserve;
  • planned modernization of Canada’s First Nations drinking water legislation.”