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.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's input, particularly with respect to some of the writing she has done on this subject matter. It is rather unfortunate that she does not understand the trajectory on which the legislation takes us.

Nobody disputes the fact that this will be a work in progress. She herself has written on the regulatory issues that have to deal with this. We want to move forward with standards for first nations communities that the governments can adhere to and embrace, just as much as the first nations communities.

However, we all agree that the capacity to do the reporting, monitoring and maintenance of these facilities and a commitment to the infrastructure on these communities, which has already been going on, I might add, these two critical components, this legislation completes that and we feel confident we will move forward, lockstep with first nations leadership and communities across the country, toward a meaningful standard that puts a priority on the safety of water and waste water treatment in first nations communities.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to speak to the bill. I want to give my hon. colleagues the actual history of what went down around safe drinking water and why we are here today.

The bill before us is supposed to reflect the consultation that happened as a result of the horrific E. coli contamination in Kashechewan in 2005. I was in Kashechewan in 2004 and 2005 when we were trying to deal with the federal Liberal government at the time and warn it about the water crisis and the fact that there were no water standards on reserve. However, the fact that there were no water standards on reserve was a perfect get-out-of-jail card for the then Liberal government.

With my dear friend, Jack Layton, who was leader of the party at the time, we visited the Kashechewan water treatment plant because the community was concerned. There was no real training in any of those communities for the maintenance of water safety and the equipment was completely breaking down. Jack and I saw pumps that were being held together with duct tape and they were using boards to hold up supports.

Of course, when E. coli broke out in November 2005, the then Department of Indian Affairs completely ignored the situation because it did not want to spend the money. Within the capital budgets of the Department of Indian Affairs, then and now, money is used to put out fires here, there and everywhere, but the department ignores actual health and safety issues.

The other department that had a key role to play was Health Canada, which has, over the years, continually left people at risk if it means spending any money. Therefore, when E. coli was found in the water system in Kashechewan, Health Canada's response was the rubber stamp that it responds with every single time first nations are put at risk: “boil your water”.

We have had communities that have had a boil water advisory for five, six, seven or ten years running. In the case of Kashechewan, Health Canada actually had the nerve to tell people that the solution for E. coli was to just boil the water. It was like telling the families to bathe their children in the toilet. That would be the same thing.

To put this in context, it happened in Ontario, which was ground zero of the biggest E. coli scandal in Canadian history and basically a direct result of the front line of the current Conservative government bench, who were then under the Harris Conservatives in the “common sense revolution”. The Walkerton E. coli scandal shocked people and changed water standards in every community in Ontario, except on reserve. For the people on reserve, they were left completely on their own.

We were in Ontario with a major E. coli outbreak and the federal and provincial governments fought back and forth for about two to three weeks about what they were going to do. As unfortunately happens, whenever we have a crisis in one of our communities, they just hope that people stop complaining and it will go away. Well, it did not. The James Bay medical authority came up and, under Dr. Murray Trusler, took pictures of children. It was the pictures of children in Kashechewan in 2005 that shocked not just this nation but others around the world. We were faced with a forced full evacuation of the community of Kashechewan because the entire infrastructure had collapsed.

At the time, I was working with the then opposition critic, Jim Prentice. I have always had a great deal of respect for Jim Prentice, not just because he is from Timmins and comes from the famous Prentice brothers hockey family, but because Jim was deeply concerned. When the present Conservative government came in we had an Indian affairs minister who took his file seriously and had a level of competence. One could disagree with him and still know that he was a man who took it seriously. Jim Prentice had said that he needed to deal with the water situation on reserves because it was appalling. Jim knew that one of the problems was that there were absolutely no standards. Without any standards, anything could happen.

As the Conservatives are claiming now, there was a consultation process that was put in place. However, fast forward to today, the bill that was brought through the unelected, unaccountable Senate is not the result of the consultations that took place with first nation communities across Canada. The bill is something completely different. It really speaks to how far down the Conservative government has gone in terms of its willingness to be accountable to Canada's most vulnerable population, which is within our first nation communities.

The bill has a lot of window dressing on language about water quality, but is about the transferring of liability to communities that do not have the resources to maintain adequate water safety standards. There is always this underlying dog whistle to the Conservative base that says the government has to bring in these standards to make people actually bother to look after their own communities, as if the communities have not been calling out for years for what they need, which are the dollars and the infrastructure to maintain proper water treatment plants. I do not know of a single community in my riding or any community in this country where safe water drinking standards can be maintained if there are no adequate systems.

According to the April 2011 release of the National Assessment of First Nation Water and Wastewater Systems, we have a situation under the current government, despite all the consultations, where 39% of the first nation communities in Canada are high risk, which means that people can die. Of those communities, 34% are at medium risk. We are looking at a bill that is going to transfer liability to the Bantustans and shanty shack towns of the far north and tell them to fix it without doing anything to ensure that those Canadian citizens have the resources that any other Canadian would take for granted. That is what the bill is about.

Think about the kind of money the government was going to blow on the F-35 in 2011. Yet it told 39% of first nation communities that they could remain at high risk, and if they did not have the training or the money to fix it, the government would go after them. That is the systemic negligence that has gone on and continues to go on in this country. Whether we are talking about health services, policing or education, it is a system of apartheid that has been set up and maintained. There are two levels of people in this country. When 39% of first nation communities are at high risk because their water is dirty and the government tells them that it is their responsibility, that is absolutely intolerable.

The government's sleight of hand is to set the standards but to not put the money in place. What has been identified to deal with the shortfall right now is $146 million. That is what is needed. Dollars and cents are needed to get these water treatment centres up to standard. It is going to cost $4.7 billion over the next 10 years to maintain them, with an annual maintenance cost of $419 million. That is what the government needs to do. There needs to be a throne speech from the Government of Canada saying that the days of maintaining the fourth world communities in northern Canada are going to end and that it is going to put the funding and training in place. I have been in communities where people said they wanted the training.

Let us look at Bill S-8 in terms of a practical example. The Marten Falls First Nation is right beside the Ring of Fire. The federal and provincial governments are licking their chops to get their hands on the Ring of Fire. They are saying the Ring of Fire is going to be the greatest thing. Dalton McGuinty thinks it is going to restart his economic credibility once he gets his hands on it. The federal government is saying the Ring of Fire is going to be the oil sands of Ontario. Marten Falls is a little community that is right beside the Ring of Fire. It has been on a boil water advisory since 2005, for seven years. It is considered normal that the community has to boil its water year after year.

Health Canada has decided it spent a little too much looking after Marten Falls, so it is suspending the bottled water that has been going to the community. It has decided not to do it any more. This little community sits beside what will probably be one of the richest mineral developments in this coming century and its bottled water is being cut off.

How does that relate to Bill S-8? It actually relates in a very clear way, which I can explain to people back home. The community has been concerned. I remember people in the community were asking for help when the sewage lift was hit by lightning. They told Indian Affairs that they did not have, within their little community, the resources to fix it. They asked Indian Affairs to come in to work with them to fix it. However, Indian Affairs did not want to spend the money, so the sewage overflowed and the water system was contaminated. Now the government is saying it is tired of the situation in Marten Falls and that it will just put in a reverse osmosis water system and walk away.

At the same time, the government has commissioned a study to find out how to fix the problem in Marten Falls, how to fix the sewage and the water, but the department does not want to wait for the study. The band wants clean drinking water for its community. The band wants to work with the department, but it asks whether it would not be prudent to actually get the report, find out what works and then put the money in to ensure that it works in the long term. In first nation communities, again and again, the federal government always does what is cheapest and quickest. It puts whatever Band-Aid it can on the septic wound and walks away. When the Band-Aid fails, the federal government blames the community.

The community has raised legitimate, serious questions about whether a reverse osmosis system would work in their community. Because of the heavy level of turbidity in the water, the amount of bacteria that sits in the tank, it is not a system that would work. People in the community are asking the department to work with them. It does not necessarily have to be adversarial. However, the department has decided, thanks to some fonctionnaire at some level, that this is how it will go and the community can take it or leave it. Bill S-8 will then allow the government to hold the community accountable if something goes wrong, because it would be the community's responsibility, even though the community was not able to participate in the decision making.

I think I have had probably 12 or 13 states of emergency in four communities that I represent since 2005. A state of emergency is not something easy to declare. It just does not happen. A state of emergency happens when an entire community is put at risk.

The response in Ontario is interesting. If a municipality declares a state of emergency, Emergency Management Ontario is sent in at the provincial level and it will do an assessment immediately. Once that is done, plans are set up. What happens in first nation communities when a state of emergency is declared? People in the community call Indian Affairs, and Indian Affairs says, “Hell, no, we're not paying”, and the province will say that it is sorry but that the community is on its own. That has happened again and again.

I will give a few examples. We had two evacuations in one year in Kashechewan in 2008. The entire sewage system in Fort Albany collapsed and thousands of gallons of raw sewage, actual human waste, was piling up in people's basements. The department's response was to tell the people to stay there. People were actually staying in homes where the methane gas was coming up to such a toxic level that people were lighting candles in their basements to try to put the methane gas down.

The Indian affairs minister knew this. The department knew this. They had footage of it. They knew those houses were in danger of blowing up from methane gas. Families had little babies in those houses. The department thought that was okay because it did not want to spend the money. It did one Band-Aid solution after another because it did not want to do it right. A private company ended up flying in bottled water. A private company flew in pumps. The deadbeat government did not want to pay any bills. At the same time we had the ongoing rebuilding in Kashechewan from the floods there.

In 2009, we had a state of emergency declared in Attawapiskat from the sewage lift collapsing there. Once again, think of the communities on a stretch from Windsor to London and imagine three or four communities where the entire sewage system, in community after community, just collapses to the point that thousands of gallons of human waste is pumped into people's basements. That was happening on the James Bay coast between 2008 and 2011, and the government's response was to blame the community.

The Prime Minister got up and did his famous, “We gave those Indians $50,000 each, every man, woman and child. What did they do with our money?” That was the Prime Minister's response on the day when the International Red Cross came in to help people in Attawapiskat.

Of course, the Prime Minister did not bother to say that the price on the head of every first nation child and parent in Attawapiskat was based on overall spending over a six-, seven- and eight-year period. The Conservatives never put that number on non-native people, but thought it was perfectly okay in Attawapiskat because they were trying to divert attention from the fact that they had allowed not one, two, three nor four states of emergency in Attawapiskat to create a situation that we saw this past year in which the entire community was put at risk.

Let us talk about the Attawapiskat state of emergency in 2009 when the sewage systems failed and we had numerous homes damaged to the point where people were getting sick and needing to be medevaced. The Department of Indian Affairs and Health Canada said to keep the families in the houses with the raw sewage. Former minister Chuck Strahl was a great guy for never knowing there was a problem. He would just cover his ears and say he was just going to ignore these people until they shut up. That was the attitude, for a community that was calling for help.

Our new minister over there was shocked. He did not know there was a problem in Attawapiskat. Nobody told him. They had been told since 2009 that people were living in tents. Why were they living in tents? They were living in tents because their homes had been destroyed because the sewage had backed up.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation is opposing Bill S-8 because it expected the government would work with the communities to put in the necessary resources so that when we have water standards on reserves, we would actually have the resources to ensure the communities can have standards. We have been pushing from the beginning to establish the same standards at the provincial and federal levels, so if they have water standards in a municipality in Ontario, first nations should have the same standards at the federal level.

We have been asking that for fire protection, and that does not happen. In 2007, Ricardo Wesley and Jamie Goodwin burned to death in a fire in a makeshift cell in Kashechewan. The federal and provincial governments fund the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. They knew that those police officers were working in a situation where there were no fire sprinklers. They could not put in fire sprinklers because it was a shack. No police officer would be expected to work under those conditions in a provincial jurisdiction, but it was okay to do it at the federal level because it did not cost as much, so two young men burned to death. The 80-some recommendations from the jury, which came out of that horrific Kashechewan fire inquest, said that if there had been a basic sprinkler system those young men might not have died and the police officers who were seriously injured trying to save them would not have been put at risk.

It is about this system we have now, where there is one set of standards for all the municipalities and the provinces and all the non-native people across Canada. They live at one level, and then the first nations communities are left down at another level. The only time they changed that standard was on the so-called “session of accountability”, where we would hold those communities to account and blame those communities.

My good friend from Fort McMurray asked me about the chiefs who are taking the money down and spending it on gambling. I was scratching my head and wondering. Was he talking about Fort Chip or about Fort McKay, or about the communities that are living downstream from the oil sands investments, communities that are trying to get by? Are we to believe that they are taking their money and gambling in casinos? However, this is the kind of talk the current government members use. They are going to put a level of accountability on these impoverished first nations communities, without the money.

Are my hon. colleagues on the other side serious about following through on what Jim Prentice started? He was working with us at that time because Jim Prentice was a collaborative kind of guy. Where is the money? Where is the money to ensure we have these standards, because until we see the money, this is just another Conservative bill that would punish communities and leave them on their own.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for my colleague, but I do not necessarily have respect for some of the rhetoric he brings to the House. In fact, he missed an entire time in history, the last six or seven years, when the government has consistently, budget after budget, put billions of dollars into first nations infrastructure and water systems throughout the country. We recognized, having taken office from the previous government, that there was a need to build up infrastructure. In every single budget since, there has been money budgeted toward this type of infrastructure.

In the case of my own community, we have seen world-class water treatment plants being built. They are very expensive; they cost hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases, in some communities.

I recognize that the member does not acknowledge the money that has been spent. He voted against every dollar that has been invested in those communities. However, now that the money has been spent and since first nations now have been consulted with regard to the legislation and are supportive of the legislation, will he now not let the legislation be put into place to ensure that, with the investments that have been made, those water treatment facilities are serviced and that there are precautions to ensure first nations people are protected?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope my hon. colleague was here for my whole speech because we would have talked about what happened in 2005-06 and how I worked with Jim Prentice. He recognized this. Unfortunately, the standard that was set for the department of Indian affairs under Jim Prentice has dropped drastically, I am sorry to say.

We are in a situation now where, under the first nations water systems assessment, done in April 2011, 39% of communities are at high risk and 34% at medium risk. When a community is said to be at high risk, that means life and death. That means threats from E. coli, sickness and people going to the hospital.

The issue before us here is, if we are going to talk about bringing these communities up to a standard, we have to ask where the money is. Where is the long-term commitment? We know that Minister Prentice, at the time, made water a priority issue in 2006, in the first Conservative budget, and started a process of consultation. However, we talk to the chiefs across the country who were part of that process—for example, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, for which I have such great respect. It said that what is coming out of Bill S-8 is not part of the consultation process.

We have a long way to go, and we need to keep that front and centre on this issue.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, everyone in the House recognizes that this is indeed a very serious issue. Clean, running water is one of those things we look at as an essential necessity of life here in Canada, and a vast majority just take it for granted.

Back in November, the leader of the Liberal Party introduced a motion, which ultimately received all-party support from the House. It was great to see the support that seems to be here to try to address the issue.

The member made reference to the importance of resources. We can talk a lot inside the Chamber, but at the end of the day, if we are not prepared to pony up some resources, it would be very challenging for us to ever be able to achieve clean, running water. Would the member not agree?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the House indeed did vote on this. The House also voted on the Shannen's Dream motion, to close the funding gap on education. We have to follow through on those commitments, because water and education have been determined by the United Nations as universal human rights. Those are rights that are routinely denied first nations communities through the systemic negligence that happens. We will set a standard in the House and then not put the resources aside. The communities suffer and the people are at risk.

The Conservatives talk about my rhetoric. I have met the families of the children who are sick. I have met the kids in Attawapiskat who are dying from bone cancers, liver cancers, kidney failures and skin cancers. I know those children. I know where they have been educated, on top of a toxic brownfield with benzene contamination. If we look up in a medical textbook the effects of benzene, we would see that those children have all the markings of it. I have seen it in the water. They cannot drink the water in Attawapiskat. I have seen it when I have walked through the streets and smelled diesel contamination.

The Conservatives should not ever talk to us about rhetoric in the House when children, under their government's watch, are being put at risk time and time again. We have already wasted the lives of thousands of young people in first nations communities who were taken off to residential schools. It is being done again, under their watch. They have to start being serious and putting some money into this.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his speech. It was not a speech so much as it was his sharing stories of events that have taken place. He meets these people and knows them by name.

He also spoke about our commitment to the United Nations and about what we are putting in jeopardy. Does the member not think that our international reputation with the UN is in jeopardy because of our incompetence?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not remember a time when Canada has been under so much scrutiny for failing to meet basic human rights requirements as it has been during the last four years. This is something that the media in Germany and England and all over the world is now watching.

I say to my honourable colleagues on the other side that our primary relationship in this country is our relationship with our first nations people. That relationship will continue. I always hear the Conservative types asking when this obligation will end—as though it is an obligation—and why we do not just cut it off and ignore the treaties. Our obligation does not end. It is a relationship and it has been one heck of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship for the last 300 years, but that relationship will continue. It will either continue in a positive manner or under the Conservative government in a negative manner. It is a relationship that defines our country and it is a relationship that defines us internationally.

The UN has in the past year denounced the Conservative government for its treatment of the people in Attawapiskat, for its failure to have a plan for food in the far north and for its abuse of children in its bogus educational system. Three times in the last year, the United Nations has challenged the Conservative government and said it has to start meeting basic human rights standards.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for his speech, which gave me goosebumps several times.

From what I know of aboriginal issues, I do not think there has been much progress since the 19th century. Unfortunately, I would say that there has probably been a regression.

Obviously, the fact that legislation is proposed but the means do not follow is a very troubling aspect of the government's stubbornness in wanting to speed up the process and circumvent a thorough examination of Bill S-8, without taking into account the effects this could have.

I get the impression that the government wants to put a lid on this affair, that it wants to shut this whole thing down and abandon the first nations. What does the member for Timmins—James Bay think about that?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member asked an excellent question. The issue in terms of addressing this problem is not about shifting blame; it is about taking responsibility. That has not been happening under the government's watch. The government seems to be playing a game of bringing in a bill and blaming the bad chiefs and holding them to account.

The issue that has been identified in terms of safe drinking water is the lack of proper resources. How could one region on the James Bay coast have a complete sewage infrastructure collapse in three communities in a four-year period? That is staggering. That is something we might expect in Haiti, but we should not expect it in James Bay, especially when one of the richest diamond mines in the world is nearby. We are moving into the Ring of Fire, which will affect the people along the Attawapiskat River. There is enormous potential in these communities, but we see the desire is to take the resources out and not build the infrastructure. If we are building the infrastructure to get these mines off the ground, then we can build the infrastructure to ensure sustainable communities.

What the government is giving up is the greatest resource we have in this country, which is the young people on those first nations communities who have so much potential. So rather than treating them as a burden, we need to see their potential, get the job training, get the resource development happening in conjunction with the communities, as the infrastructure is being built.

This could be a positive story. Unfortunately we just see bills. We do not see any forward thinking in terms of fixing this relationship with our communities.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today to speak to this bill. I will be splitting my time with the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Clean running water is an important issue, which I posed in a question a few minutes ago to my colleague from the New Democratic Party. It is something for which I believe a vast majority of Canadians take for granted. After all, most Canadians live in metropolitan centres, such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and St. John's, from coast to coast. We assume that the water we drink is healthy and that all Canadians have access to clean running water sources. We need to recognize that there are deficiencies all over Canada with regard to clean drinking water or clean water for bathing.

At the end of the day, I believe all political parties will recognize the importance of having clean running water. In fact, the leader of the Liberal Party introduced a motion in November of last year calling upon the House to address the urgent need of first nations communities whose members have no clean running water in their homes. There was great support for that motion. We were quite proud of the fact that we were able to provide that debate in the House last November. At the end of the debate, the consensus was that we should pass the motion. The Liberal Party was quite happy with the unanimous support from all political parties.

We expected some action would be taken. That happened about a year ago in the House. We now have before us Bill S-8, which has a huge gap, the gap being that there are no real financial resources being tied to it. If we are not prepared to recognize the importance of capital infrastructure in order to provide clean running water, we can talk all we want but it will not change the fact. The fact is that there are far too many first nations people living on reserves who do not have access to clean running water. That is something the government needs to be more sensitive to. It is great that it says that it will support the Liberal Party motion that recognizes the importance of the issue and then introduced Bill S-8, but at the end of the day the area of greatest concern must be the financial resources.

I went on the Internet to see just how serious a problem it is. Every year we hear about boil water advisories. Manitoba has thousands of freshwater lakes, rivers, just name it, with high-quality water. In fact, many talk about how we will be able to export water into the future. It is a wonderful natural resource that Manitoba is blessed to have. How that water is managed is being watched very closely.

If we compare Manitoba to many countries in the world, it is amazing the degree to which we have so much good quality water.

I will talk about the list of boil water advisories in Manitoba. These lists are on the Internet and can be accessed by everyone. It is amazing the type of information people can find on the Internet. I think the list of communities would surprise a lot of people. The list includes Alexander, Anola, Balmoral, Birch River, Blue Lakes Resort, Brandon, Carey, Cartwright, the Churchill River Lodge, Duck Bay, East Selkirk, Elma, Fairford, the Garrison, Gem Lake, Glenboro Health Centre, Grand Marais, Granville Lake, Great Falls, Haywood, Île-des-Chênes, Inwood, Lac du Bonnet, Lee River, Lynn Lake, New Bothwell, and the list goes on. The list even includes Pelican Lake, a beautiful are in which we have our cottage. These are all communities where there has been a great deal of concern, and I did not even list half of them in Manitoba. On this particular list it shows 110 where they have boil water advisories or other concerns regarding blooms, but 95% of those are just boil water advisories.

People may ask themselves what it means when they see a boil water advisory. In many of these communities, much like on our reserves, people are astounded to hear that they need to boil their water in order to drink it. Quite often, that is what they need to do. Putting it into perspective, that is nothing new for many people on reserves or in first nations communities. They deal with this year in and year out, which is why we in the Liberal Party tried to raise the profile of the issue. We do not get very many opposition days. It would be nice if the government would allow us to have a few more. However, even with the few that we do have, we listed this issue as an opposition day motion because we felt it was something the House needed to address.

What do we mean when we say “boil water”? The Manitoba government has been somewhat weak in many areas but in certain areas it has made some progress. If we go to its website, we get all sorts of information in regard to what is meant by “boil water”. The Manitoba government website states:

Water Advisories are issued for a drinking water system or a drinking water source by a Medical Officer of Health (Manitoba Health) due to a confirmed or suspected water quality problem. Affected residents and businesses are notified in the event an advisory is issued and provided with instructions on precautionary measures.

There is so much there. At this point, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my apologies.

When the vote finished and you asked for questions and comments, I looked up and my colleague did have a question for me. I would like the opportunity to be able to answer the question. If not, I know my colleague, who I agreed at the beginning to share my time with--

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague believe that in preparing its legislation the government took seriously the letter I sent the minister a year ago explaining that we would not be able to support any bill unless the resources were there to fix the water and wastewater treatments in all communities in Canada? Will 100% of first nation families in 100% of first nation communities have access to safe drinking water and wastewater management?

Does my colleague also believe that the government honoured the commitment in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior and informed consent on any legislation dealing with first nations in this country?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised a critically important issue for all of us to recognize, the issue of financial resources. To deal with the issue of clean running water, we are not talking about tens of millions of dollars but literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Bill S-8 does not allow for any sort of government commitment.

Last year the leader of the Liberal Party introduced a motion in the House that all members voted in favour of, a motion aimed at ensuring that the government of the day recognized the urgency of dealing with the issue of clean running water. We were happy that the Conservatives voted in favour of the motion, recognizing how important an issue it was. However, we are disappointed they did not follow through by providing the necessary financial resources to deal with this critically important issue. Unfortunately, until the government recognizes the importance of financial resources, first nations will not be able to have the clean running water they are demanding today. We appeal to the government to look at the resource issue so that we can deal with the issue at hand.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-8 would basically transfer responsibility, that is, it would transfer liability, to communities that have been calling out for years for resources to ensure that they will have safe and adequate drinking water. To New Democrats this bill seems to be aimed at cutting off a whole segment of Canadian society, a segment of Canadian society that is being denied basic water rights and safety in their communities. First nations will now told that they are responsible for anything that goes wrong, but will not have the resources to address that.

We see from the 2011 release of the national assessment of first nation water systems that over 39% of first nation communities in Canada are at high risk, meaning there is a threat to human health, and 34% are at medium risk. The shortfall is going to be $4.7 billion over the next 10 years.

Why does my colleague think the government did not bring this forward in a throne speech where it would have set out a clear commitment to clean drinking water and resources, and why is it proposing to basically leave--