‘We must get this done’: Liberals stick to First Nations water promise amid new boil-water advisories
As part of its goal to end long-term boil water advisories for First Nations reserves, the federal government has added nearly 250 more drinking water systems to its list of those eligible for public monies, meaning it will have to address many more advisories than it originally intended.
In the past federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to end all such advisories by March 2021 to finally deliver clean drinking water for all First Nations peoples.
While progress has been made in the first two years of government, the list of long-term advisories still stands at 67 — a number that increased to 91 on Tuesday as a result of the new systems receiving federal supports.
Thus, a total of 1,047 drinking water systems will now eligible for supports from Indigenous Services Canada, the five-month old department created by the government to better provide services to First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
Despite the additions, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said the Liberals will still meet their intended goal of ending these water advisories in the same timeframe.
Not only will they stick to the March 2021 completion date, but Philpott said they are committed to "accelerating" the pace of construction and renovation for affected water systems.
Philpott said two-thirds of the $2 billion allocated to address water systems in Budget 2016 remains unspent.
42 of the 91 advisories still have no scheduled completion date.
"The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem and that there needs to be a solution and I applaud the federal government wholeheartedly for putting the communities on the list … hopefully the money will come to correct these issues," he said in an interview with CBC News.
Of those 575 homes, 47 per cent can only access contaminated groundwater and thus have to rely on bottled water for daily activities.