Needed infrastructure improvements

by Kathleen Charlebois, originally posted on July 18, 2016


Northwest of Sioux Lookout, Slate Falls First Nation is one of many Indigenous communities with barriers to the basic need of drinking water, but things may start to change.

Kenora MP Bob Nault said on Monday, July 18, that the funding that will go towards the upgrade of Slate Falls First Nation’s water treatment system is just the first step towards improving drinking water access to all Indigenous communities.

Nault said this is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to get all First Nations off boil water advisories and get water-treatment plants up to standard over a five-year period. A monitoring process will be put in place as well.

“I’m expecting a number of other announcements to come this year and in the following years,” he said, and explained that the Slate Falls project was considered “shovel ready” and structured to be developed and built.

The water treatment plant in Slate Falls needed an upgrade along with repairs to water lines so they remained consistent and didn’t cause problems, which resulted in multiple boil water advisories.

All the community needed for years were the financial resources and the official government announcement, but Nault said the previous government was reluctant to approve.

Now the $11.6-million investment means that nine different boil water advisories in the community will be lifted by the fall.

For many other First Nation communities, the lack of safe drinking water and their isolation go hand in hand. Nault said winter roads would have to be built quickly in order to haul up the necessary equipment.

He also said he’s often spoken publicly about how poor infrastructure is an impediment to First Nations development, particularly the lack of all-weather roads into remote communities and grid systems.

“That I consider a regional priority, not just mine but other northern MPs and MPPs,” said Nault.

“That would have a huge impact on the ability to improve infrastructure if we got them off of diesel and onto the grid, and if we built all-weather roads, we could get things in and out of there all year round.”

He said they are working on a number of similar proposals that are now just a matter of government approval.

Nault is currently holding summer constituency clinics in towns and communities across the Kenora riding.

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