A government study that found nearly 40 per cent of water systems on native reserves pose high levels of risk is proof Ottawa needs to act quickly fund improvements, the Liberals say.
The results of the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems were released last week by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
Conducted over two years, the study looked at water systems in 97 per cent of first-nation communities in Canada and found that nearly 1,800 reserve homes were without water or sewage service. It said $1.2-billion would be required immediately to bring these systems up to the Aboriginal Affairs department’s own protocol.
“The problem is far more serious than previously reported, with 39 per cent of first nations drinking water systems rated as high risk by the assessment,” Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, her party’s aboriginal affairs critic, told an Ottawa news conference Tuesday.
“The government has an obligation to commit additional new funding to address the immediate needs, in addition to an estimated $4.7-billion over the next 10 years,” she said.
The Conservatives previously introduced legislation in the Senate that would require aboriginal communities to meet federally dictated standards for water supplies but many native groups opposed it because it provided no money for the upgrades required. It died on the order paper when the government fell prior to the election but is expected to be reintroduced.