Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Library of Parliament Legislative Summary of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

This summer, the Library of Parliament published a Legislative Summary of Bill S-11: The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act:
"The bill provides for the development of federal regulations governing the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of waste water in First Nations communities. Importantly, the bill also establishes that federal regulations developed in this regard may incorporate, by reference, provincial regulations governing drinking water and waste water in First Nations communities."

"The delivery of safe drinking water to on-reserve First Nations communities is critical to the health and safety of the communities' residents. Access to safe, clean, potable water is also closely tied to the economic viability of individual communities. For more than a decade, research has indicated that many First Nations communities lack adequate access to safe drinking water. A 2001-2002 assessment found that the quality of almost three quarters of drinking water systems in First Nations communities were at significant risk. In recent years, with the intention of addressing on-reserve water quality issues the federal government has implemented a number of initiatives, including plans to bring forward water standards legislation to fill the existing regulatory gap governing the provision of drinking water on reserves. Progress reports suggest that, since 2006, there has been a steady reduction in the number of high-risk community water systems and priority communities."

"In Canada, water and waste water operations and systems are generally the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments. Over the years, the different jurisdictions have developed comprehensive regulatory regimes for the 'protection of source water, water quality standards, and the oversight of water treatment plants and water delivery services.' However, because section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 grants to the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over 'Indians and lands reserved for the Indians,' provincial regulatory water standards do not apply to on-reserve First Nations communities. To date, there has been no federal legislative framework governing drinking water and waste water in First Nations communities beyond what is set out in federal policies, administrative guidelines, and funding arrangements."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:21 pm

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