A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons concludes that the support provided by Indigenous Services Canada has not been adequate to address long-standing problems with safe drinking water for many of Canada’s First Nations communities. Drinking water advisories remain a part of daily life in many of these communities, with almost half of existing long-term advisories in place for more than a decade.
Between 2015 and 2020, 100 long-term drinking water advisories in place on public water systems in First Nations communities were lifted, while 60 remained in effect—28 of these were more than 10 years old. In December 2020, Indigenous Services Canada acknowledged that it would not meet its target of removing all long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems in First Nations communities by 31 March 2021.
The audit found that Indigenous Services Canada’s efforts have been constrained by an outdated policy and formula for funding the operation and maintenance of public water systems. In addition, the department has been working with First Nations to revise the legislative framework to provide First Nations communities with drinking water protections comparable to other communities in Canada.
“Indigenous Services Canada must work in partnership with First Nations to develop and implement a lasting solution for safe drinking water in First Nations communities, to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories and prevent new ones from occurring”, said Ms. Hogan”.