We've worked on 32 First Nations across BC, and this is something close to our hearts. There are over 130 First Nations Communities across Canada on water advisories, excluding BC. BC is unique in that Health Canada has transferred health duties to First Nations Health Authority....Here's their stats for BC:
"As of May 31, 2016, there were 21 Boil Water Advisories and 5 Do Not Consume advisories for a total of 26 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 23 First Nation communities in British Columbia. This includes water systems with 5 or more connections and smaller water systems that have public facilities." (source)
26 advisories, on 23 bands.
Additionally, 60% of water operators on First Nations communities are not properly certified. A number that has stayed consistent since 2006.
In Neegan Burnside Ltd.’s 2011 National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems, a project commissioned by the federal government, 807 water systems serving 560 First Nations communities were assessed. Of these water systems, 315 (39%) were categorized as high risk, 278 (34%) as medium risk, and 215 (27%) as low risk
The problem is multi-faceted: Band Politics plays a large role, as does funding from INAC and the stipulations imposed upon Bands by INAC, and policies in place from the Federal Government all aid in keeping First Nations at risk of waterborne disease, including over-chlorination which is linked to cancer.
Because there is no legal enforcement, there is no inquiry, There is no investigation. There is no publicity. There is no accountability. It is an embarrassment on a global stage and international agencies are consistently criticizing the situation.
Canadians always hear on the news 'We gave them $90 Million, and we don't know what they did with it.' But this is misleading. $90 Million was spent, but spread out over years, and with stipulations attached to that money. Like all forms of government, so much is spent on paperwork, legal fees, transportation and accommodation for officials, meals, and the usual bureaucracy. Is there corruption on First Nations? There is corruption everywhere. But that is not the only issue.
Pandering to traditional non-voters, Trudeau promised to end the unsafe water advisories on First Nations across Canada. When questioned, he admitted that BC was going to be left out of that plan, where well over 25% of all boil water advisories exist. BC also boasts the highest population of First Nations in Canada.
A CBC article in 2006 claimed that 62% of First Nations water operators are not properly certified. This means that 60% of the risk on First Nations is due directly to the individuals in charge of its water system, and their lack of training, funding, and assistance. This is simply because the government does not fund proper training, and ever-changing political issues on each First Nation prevents many from being a permanent employee. Quite often, when one family gets a chief in, that chief's family becomes all the new Band employees. This cycle prevents lasting improvements.
Each Band is responsible for 20% of the funding for their water treatment and sewage waste plans. The federal government funds the rest. The problem with this is that many First Nations have no way of generating reliable economic growth due to their placement far away from urban cities. What kind of water is expected with a low budget? Low quality water.
What was done with this information? Nothing. The answer is usually to just "Add more chlorine!"
But is the problem all with the Federal Government? No, Aboriginal Leaders are partly to blame.
The Assembly of First Nations has opposed bills in the past which would aid water quality, because 'it would give the federal government too much power to unilaterally impose the legislation and override treaty rights and First Nations bylaws.' (Read Article Here)
There is also the problem that everyone has to justify their job. Water testers, water operators, health officials, agencies, and band councils must all justify their position in their society by claiming that they are doing a good job at keeping the water system operating.
At the end of the day, it's not your fault, it's not your Band's fault, but the power is in your hands to do something about it yourself.
If you're Native and you're reading this. We are here to help you. Contact us for a free test and our flexible payment plans, with 0% interest.