Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment addresses health and safety issues on reserve lands and certain other lands by providing for regulations to govern drinking water and waste water treatment in First Nations communities. Regulations could be made on a province-by-province basis to mirror existing provincial regulatory regimes, with adaptations to address the circumstances of First Nations living on those lands.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 10, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 6, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
June 4, 2013 Passed That Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments].
May 8, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
May 8, 2013 Passed That this question be now put.
May 8, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government has had a number of meaningful discussions with the first nations regarding the proposed legislation, and we will continue to do so.

Just like the Liberals, the NDP member is always talking about throwing money at problems. We are trying to establish a legislative framework so we can adopt regulations regarding the quality of drinking water and waste water services on first nations land.

All other Canadians and all other municipalities have this right. This initiative cannot be completed overnight. This is not smoke and mirrors. By working with the first nations, the regions and stakeholders from the communities, we can develop regulations to bring first nations drinking water and waster water services to a level and quality equal to or comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of the reserves across Canada are remote and most of the reserves in northern Ontario are remote. This is not only an important issue to them. Many of them have dysfunctional water systems now, but building water systems in those remote areas is complex and way more expensive than in urban areas of Canada.

I would just like to add my voice on their behalf in asking for a more full and complete discussion of this bill before we go ahead with it because it has such huge implications for cost, complexity and a number of first nations.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I agree, indeed, that in remote communities it is a particular challenge. As a matter of fact, I visited the Kashechewan community not long ago and saw firsthand a water system in which this government had invested and from which the community benefits. I also visited with Chief Naveau and his community in northern Ontario and he showed me with pride the water system that the serious investment of this government allowed his community to get. The chief was telling me the problem is that they needed trained people to protect the system. This is what these regulations would achieve.

I do not understand why opposition members are arguing that instead of improving the system, we should sit and talk about it. That is all they do: talk about it.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have introduced this bill so first nations have the same access to drinking water as all Canadians. To me, it is incredible how anybody could even consider not supporting that because many of the communities, as we all know, have waited too long for safe, clean, reliable drinking water and yet, shockingly, opposition members have continually tried to draw out and prolong debate and continue to vote against this initiative.

As the preamble states, the government will work with the first nations to develop federal regulations. Passing this bill is just the beginning. Much work remains to be done.

Could the minister please tell the House how long it will take for regulations to be put in place and why we need to take action now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month but now, in moving this legislation forward?

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, developing federal regulations will take time and will be implemented over a number of years. Regulations will be developed on a region-by-region basis and phased in over time. As I said earlier, this phased-in approach will help to ensure that first nations and system operators are prepared for the coming into force of the regulations.

During this time, the government and first nations will continue to work together to bring in drinking water and waste water infrastructure, monitoring activities and capacity to the level required to meet future federal regulations. That is how we will do it.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am dismayed because I am thinking about many of the first nations communities I represent and how they would find that the shutting down of a conversation would be fundamentally disrespectful, even with those who happen to disagree.

However, let me read a quote by the Minister of Public Safety when he was in opposition. He stated:

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister of Canada swung an axe across the throat of parliament. While committee members had an opportunity to speak to Bill C-36, members of all parties in parliament lost the ability to express the concerns of Canadians.

If the bill was the right thing to do, why did the Prime Minister do the wrong thing by invoking closure?

If the minister will not listen to the words of the opposition or first nations, maybe he will listen to the words of his own colleagues, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, who have all said that using these draconian tactics in Parliament is fundamentally undemocratic and also leads to bad legislation, which his government has done time and again on something so important as drinking water on first nations reserves. Would it not be right to get it right?

The minister recently said something wrong. Many of these water integration systems are integrated with the non-aboriginal, non-reserve communities. The fact that he does not know that or does not seem to care raises so many fundamental concerns with his ability to do the job that he is meant to do. Shutting down debate is wrong and he knows it.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, and Canadians must know this, this motion does not shut down debate. It controls the debate.

From here, the bill will go to committee where every section of the bill can be debated and questioned. If members have ideas as to how to improve a bill, they can make their case at committee. Then the bill will come back to Parliament where the people who were elected will vote on it.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I heard the minister say that it does not close debate.

I do not think he understands what time allocation is. What the government has proposed is that all members of the House of Commons will be unable to participate in the debate on this very important issue. This is an allocation. It does close debate. It prevents members from being able to contribute their thoughts, ideas and reflections from their constituents to the debate.

Maybe the minister might want to reconsider his statement and reflect on what the government has proposed to do this afternoon.

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, what ignorance from that side of the House.

The fact is that for more than seven years, the governments, both the Liberals and the Conservatives, have not respected their treaty obligations.

Again, here is a quote from April 29, a resolution of the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising First Nations. It says:

UCCMM First Nations has the right to free and prior and informed consent on anything that affects us. We have not given out free, prior or informed consent on any of the legislation passed by this sitting of the legislature.

Again, one of the bills is Bill S-8. There is no first nation that does not want fresh, clean water.

The minister spoke about the places he had seen where the government had invested in clean water, where there was water that people could actually drink. He is not talking about the ones where they cannot drink it. The minister is forcing first nations to have legislation that they cannot even afford to put a system in place.

First, will the minister put money with that? Second, will he agree that all first nations should be heard, especially the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising First Nations?

Bill S-8—Time allocation motionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the NDP is arguing that first nations have veto rights on every piece of legislation or regulation that can be made, I respect its position, but then the NDP members can explain that to all Canadians.

The fact is that this is an enabling legislation that will allow the government to develop, in partnership with first nations, a regulatory system that will ensure the provision of safe water for first nations members.

This is what the bill is intended to do. This is not a finance bill. This is a bill to provide a regulatory system that will allow first nations to get the same level of clean water as other Canadians enjoy.

Second ReadingSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, before I start today, I would like to say that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

I fully support Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, and I encourage my hon. colleagues to endorse the proposed legislation.

Bill S-8 is an important piece of a larger initiative that will have a tangible, practical and positive impact on a long-standing problem: unsafe drinking water in first nations communities.

More than seven years ago, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development conducted an in-depth study of first nations drinking water. The report concluded that a large part of the problem is that responsibility for the various tasks involved in the treatment and delivery of drinking water on first nation lands is shared among many groups.

Here is a definitive statement from the report:

Until a regulatory regime is established that is comparable with the one that is in place in the provinces, INAC and Health Canada cannot ensure that First Nations people living on reserves will have continuing access to safe drinking water.

The same conclusion was reached in every other authoritative report on the matter, including most recently in the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems, published in July 2011.

The national assessment was the most rigorous, comprehensive and independent evaluation of on-reserve water and waste water systems ever undertaken by a federal government. The report is full of valuable information that can help point the way toward further progress. It highlights the variations in the quality of drinking water in first nations communities and the diverse reasons for successes and challenges. The report also recommends the “establishment of a regulatory framework for water and waste water systems”.

Bill S-8 alone, of course, will not ensure access to safe drinking water in first nations communities, but it would create a legislative framework to enable the government, together with first nations and other stakeholders, to develop enforceable standards, the chains of accountability that are absolutely necessary to support progress.

Let me remind the House of the tragic examples of water contamination in communities across the country.

In North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 2001, over 7,000 people became sick because there had been a failure to properly treat the drinking water. I too drank the water and was also sick at that time.

In Walkerton, Ontario, in 2000, seven citizens died and more than 2,500 became sick. In the aftermath of the Walkerton tragedy, the Ontario government developed one of the most stringent drinking water regulatory regimes in Canada.

In order to avoid a tragedy like Walkerton happening in first nations communities, we need regulations. This is what Bill S-8 would enable the government and first nations to do.

To address the other factors that contribute to unsafe drinking water, this government, in partnership with first nations and first nation organizations, has taken a long list of actions. From 2006 to 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested approximately $3 billion, including $330.8 million in economic action plan 2012, in water and waste water infrastructure in first nations.

These investments supported more than 400 projects, such as the construction and upgrade of treatment systems, the protection of water sources and the installation of piping networks and holding tanks. More than 40 projects were completed last year alone. Actions were also taken to train and certify hundreds of operators and to publish and distribute treatment protocols and operational guidelines.

The combined effect of these actions has been significant, but much more remains to be done.

The establishment of regulatory regimes would support further progress in a number of ways. Practically speaking, Bill S-8 would enable the development of regulations to protect sources of drinking water located on first nations lands from contamination. The regulations stemming from Bill S-8 would help strengthen oversight and clearly lay out the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, including private companies operating drinking water and waste water systems on first nations lands.

During the discussions that took place over the last six years to develop this legislation, numerous first nation public works specialists expressed the need to have tools to do their work properly and to have access to appropriate safeguards to provide clean, safe and reliable drinking water to fellow community members. While protocols and guidelines exist to help operators in first nations communities, these documents lay out no enforceable standards. Regulations will offer a mechanism by which standards will be clearly stated, realistic and tailored to the circumstances of first nations. They will also provide a mechanism through which an enforcement body can support the work of these operators and guide them in their important work.

This government recognizes that partnership can be a powerful force, and the process to develop regulations will be key in bringing this commitment to reality.

Incorporation by reference of provincial and territorial drinking water legislation, with the adaptations to reflect the needs and circumstances of first nations communities, will foster collaboration in many ways.

First, regulatory development will enable the government and first nations to work together to develop the regulations that are essential to the health and safety of first nations children, women and men.

Second, incorporation by reference with adaptations will allow for comparable standards to be established between on- and off-reserve communities. Future regulations would extend the possibility of first nations, provinces, territories and municipalities working together to deliver safe drinking water and waste water services on first nations lands, exchange best practices and possibly strengthen partnerships that are already in place.

For instance, first nations and neighbouring municipalities sometimes share drinking water services through municipal-type service agreements, as in British Columbia, where the community of Kwakiutl receives drinking water from the neighbouring town of Port Hardy. We hope that having comparable standards on and off reserve would facilitate these partnerships.

Bill S-8 and future regulations would help support first nations communities by bringing their drinking water and waste water services to a level and quality of service comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians living in communities of similar size and location.

The bill is a crucial component of this government's numerous actions over the years to improve the safety of drinking water on reserve. It would have a significant and tangible impact on first nations communities.

Ultimately, Bill S-8 would enable first nations to work with federal and regional officials to develop regimes tailored to their circumstances while respecting science-based standards for health and safety.

I urge my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill S-8.

Second ReadingSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of what we have heard from first nations across the country, and in view of the devastating report on the state of potable drinking water and waste water systems across the country from July, 2011, I would like to ask the hon. member whether he is prepared to do what I said in the letter I wrote to the minister in the fall of 2011.

In the letter, I said that as the Liberal Party, we would not be able to support any legislation unless there were resources to go with it to actually fix this appalling situation with three-quarters of the water systems within the country. This piece of legislation will do absolutely nothing unless there are resources for first nations to fix these problems.

Will the member tell us where the money is coming from to fix this situation in the first nations across the country?

Second ReadingSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is quite hypocritical to hear that from the Liberal member over there.

For 13 years they were in government, and for 13 years they did not get anything done. They keep talking about it, but they never put in any legislation. In the past, all they wanted to do was put motions forward.

What we are seeing here right now is legislation to help first nations individuals in first nations communities. Being first nations myself, I hear the rigmarole of what is being said across the floor, and it is atrocious knowing what she is saying. That is what I find appalling.

I look back at November 2011. The Liberal member for Toronto Centre put forward a motion calling on the government to urgently address first nations' access to safe drinking water. Here is another motion. It is not legislation. All she does is talk about it.

Now, more than a year and a half later, we are hearing debate on Bill S-8, now in second reading for the fourth time. This is the second iteration of the bill. We believe that now is the time to move forward.

I hope that my hon. colleagues opposite will put aside their partisanship and support the bill.

Second ReadingSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am always interested in hearing the member give us some indication of what he thinks and how he feels about an issue that is so important to all of us.

I do not think there is anyone here who does not recognize the fact that there needs to be some action to deal with the desperate need for fresh, clean, safe drinking water in first nations communities. The problem is that bringing in legislation that would make first nations responsible for it, without properly ensuring that there would be funding in place, just compounds an already difficult situation.

Could the member please comment?

Second ReadingSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2013 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will just point out what the federal government has done since the Conservatives became the government in 2006.

There was $333.8 million in 2006-2007. In 2007-2008, we had $333.2 million for first nations water and waste management. In 2008-2009, the federal government put in $340.8 million and in 2009-2010 an additional $412.7 million. In 2010-2011, it was $427.4 million and in 2011-2012, it was an additional $343.4 million. In 2012-2013, it was $374.8 million. Now, in 2013-2014, under Canada's economic action plan, there would be an additional $374.7 million.

That is a grand total of over $3 billion assigned to address first nations water and waste water.