Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 26: Justice (25-42)

Statute of Limitations restricts who can apply for a claim in the Drinking Water class action lawsuit

April 29, 2022

Neskantaga First Nation’s chief says residents don’t support federal drinking water settlement

CBC: Residents of some First Nations affected by unsafe drinking water can now file claims under a settlement with the federal government, but the chief of one northwestern Ontario community says they don’t support the arrangement.

“I just want to say that I’m not in agreement with the settlement,” said Roy Moonias, a member of Neskantaga First Nation, which has been under a drinking-water advisory for nearly three decades. “I heard the community say the same thing. They’re not in agreement.”

The settlement was signed last year, after members of First Nations in communities with a water advisory of at least one year since 1995 launched a legal challenge in 2019. The settlement provides:

  • About $1.5 billion in compensation for individual First Nation residents affected by a lack of clean drinking water.
  • The creation of a $400-million First Nation Economic and Cultural Restoration Fund.
  • The creation of a First Nations Advisory Committee on Safe Drinking Water.
  • At least $6 billion to improve access to safe drinking water on First Nations.

Roy Moonias said the terms of the agreement are too restrictive.

Compensation is open to anyone who lived on a First Nation that had a boil-water advisory for at least a year between Nov. 20, 2013, and June 20, 2021.

However, the age of claimants plays a role in how much compensation they may get. Those born before Nov. 20, 1995, are only eligible for compensation for the period of Nov. 20, 2013 to June 20, 2021.

According to the First Nations Drinking Water Settlement website, “there are certain legislative limitations that apply to the settlement, because of Canadian laws that place limits on how long adults have to bring a lawsuit forward after an event happens.” (Indigenous Watchdog highlight)

At the media conference, Moonias said he didn’t support the settlement because of that. “I myself don’t support governments format,” he said. “I suffered 27 years. I suffered, my family, and everybody in the community here, 27 years.”

However, under the terms of the settlement, Moonias said he’s only eligible for compensation for six of those years.

Chief Doreen Spence of Tataskweyak Cree Nation invited federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu to visit her community, which has been under a water advisory since 2017. “I know that every First Nation as well has their own unique, different problems in terms of water quality and service,” Spence said. “The settlement agreement … is making a promise to end all boil-water advisories, and we know that this is not going to happen overnight.

“If this continues, for us to argue for what we want, the stumbling block is still there, because we know the federal government usually dictates in terms of, ‘No, this is what you’re going to get, this is how we’re going to get rid of the boil-water advisory.’ But I think that is unacceptable.”