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

June 6th, 2013 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it sad that they keep breaking their own time allocation records. It is always the same story: it is oh-so-important, oh-so-urgent.

My question for the minister is very simple. If it is so urgent, if it really is a priority for the government, why did the last two versions of this bill come from the Senate?

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I understand the ideological position of the member's party, which wants to make Canada the only western country and the only major democracy with a unicameral system. However, at present, we have a bicameral system, and this system empowers the Senate to introduce bills.

In the end, what matters is not how the bicameral system functions, but the end result. What matters here is that first nations urgently need us to take action. The member should know this better than anyone.

I understand that he likes to spin his wheels, but we want to take action and the motion is designed to do that.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think there is new record-setting every single day for time allocation, on bill after bill. The subject matter before us in this debate is time allocation, not the substance of the bill itself.

My question is for the hon. minister. Does the government, in which the minister serves on Privy Council, have any intention of ever allowing adequate debate on the bills before us?

This is an affront to individual members. People in my position, who do not have automatic speaking slots in debates, lose them for sure every time there is time allocation. It never gets around to allowing full participation of all members of this House on issues of critical importance.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is the member's point of view, one that I can respect, but that I totally disagree with.

Anyone who takes a hard look at the procedures will realize that any member who wants to do serious and reasonable work will have ample time to give his or her opinion on any bill before Parliament.

When we look at the work of committees, we see that a great number of people are asked to appear and give their opinion. There is no time allocation there. The idea is that at some point decisions must be made. I understand that the NDP like to spin their wheels, but we want to move forward and it is time to rectify the situation.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote a former member of the expert panel on safe drinking water, Steve Hrudey, who testified in committee on May 23, 2013. He said:

If those responsible for Walkerton's drinking water had simply satisfied the very limited guidance that was in place for treating Walkerton's water, that tragedy could have been averted. This disaster arose from a failure to do what needed to be done operationally...

What is the minister going to do to prevent a Walkerton-like disaster from occurring in first nations communities?

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is concerned about the Walkerton tragedy and its outcome, he should insist that all his NDP colleagues change their minds and support this regulation, which is essential to preventing such a situation. That is what this bill is trying to and will do. Once regulations are adopted throughout the country and once first nations are subject to regulations and standards, we will be able to ensure that the drinking water in those communities is safe.

If he is serious about protecting the interests of first nations, he should be the first to vote in favour of this bill, since that is its primary objective.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the safe drinking water for first nations act is crucial to ensuring that first nations have the same health and safety precautions concerning drinking water and waste water treatment as are currently enjoyed by other Canadians.

Our government has been engaging with first nations partners since first coming to government in 2006, and we continue to engage with first nations on the proposed legislation every step of the way. There have been seven years of continuous dialogue with first nations, including formal engagement sessions and measures to accommodate the first nations. The legislation before Parliament today is a result of hard work and collaboration.

Would the minister please inform us as to whether the first nations will continue to be involved in the development and implementation of the regulations?

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the government will work with first nations and other stakeholders to develop regulations and standards on a region-by-region basis. As a matter of fact, the preamble of the bill makes it clear that this is the intention.

The government recognizes that many first nations communities face unique challenges, and their ability to meet federal regulatory requirements may vary from province to province and territory to territory. Developing federal regulations will take time. It will not happen overnight. These regulations will be implemented over a number of years, in full co-operation and collaboration with first nations and stakeholders.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that, in French, the party's name is NPD, not NDP.

They do not understand some very simple things. I spent two years on a reserve providing services to the community. For example, I drove the tanker truck to deliver water to all the homes. One well would have been enough to provide water to the entire reserve. The only thing the community was missing was the money to buy pipes. It had an excavator to do the work and everything else that was needed. The community was trying to get funding to pipe water to homes on the reserve, but it never got it. I lived there in the 1980s, and I am still not sure the situation has been resolved.

There are many other similar cases. The people of Kitigan Zibi, a neighbouring reserve, solved 90% of their supply problems. Last I heard, they needed a half a kilometre of pipe to connect one neighbourhood to the water system.

These communities do not need a law. They need resources. That is what the Conservatives do not understand. Proposing this at the last minute, one week before the end of the session, and imposing a gag order is not the proper attitude for a government that claims to act in the interests of first nations.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would have us believe that he is concerned about the resources invested in first nations.

If he is so concerned, then how can he just stand there? Let him stand up and explain to aboriginals on the reserve he was just referring to why, in 2012, he and the other NDP members all voted against the government's budget, which invested $328 million in infrastructure.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, honestly, to see what the government is doing makes me think of South Africa in days gone by. There is a tendency to generalize, as though every first nation were going through the same thing.

The problem is that each community is unique. I am proud that members from all parties are able to talk about their own realities because it is something they care about. Unfortunately, this bill does not take communities' individual realities into account. The government did not bother to listen to these communities or even slightly address their needs.

Why does the minister need to move a time allocation motion again when we are trying to share our ideas? I do not know any other hon. member who keeps using the same rhetoric over and over again. It takes some nerve to say that we are not serious. The word “honourable” is a title. Some have to work hard for it. He should know that. It is too bad.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am not shocked by the member's comments. It sounds like something the New Democratic Party would say.

It is important to note that this bill is a response to various recommendations about drinking water on first nations land, including recommendations from the reports I mentioned earlier. These reports were from the Commissioner of the Environment, the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

They call it muzzling. We say it is time to take action. I understand that members of the New Democratic Party would like to see us end up with the same record as the Liberals at the end of our mandate, which is to say no progress on this issue. On the contrary, we have a detailed three-pronged strategy that includes regulation. That is what this bill will be able to do.

If they were seriously concerned about the issue, they would vote in favour of the bill so that it would pass.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill has to do with protecting sources of drinking water.

Another bill passed by the government provides for environmental deregulation to allow pipelines to be installed. Furthermore, a provision of this bill stipulates that nothing in the bill should abrogate or derogate from any existing treaty rights.

I have to wonder how the government will reconcile protecting sources of drinking water and making it easier for pipelines to cross first nations land. Is there not a contradiction there?

Furthermore, I do not understand what the minister means when he says that NDP members are used to spinning their wheels. That deserves an explanation. What does he mean when he says that members of the NDP are spinning their wheels?

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is typical of the New Democratic Party, which is now questioning my French, likely because I am a simple Acadian from New Brunswick.

To come back to the question, perhaps the member would be more likely to understand if I said it in English. I am sure he would understand that.

I have to admit that aboriginal and treaty rights on first nation lands could be negatively affected if, for example, the land was used in a way that negatively affected the safety of the water. In that kind of circumstance, that could happen.

However, people's health comes first, and that is the priority with this bill.

Bill S-8—Time Allocation MotionSafe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government's actions are absolutely shameful. I am outraged that it would dare impose a 41st gag order on this Parliament, this time concerning Bill S-8, especially given that this bill contains significant flaws. In particular, these legislative measures will make first nations responsible for water supply systems, which have already proven to be inadequate, without giving them the funding and the means to construct systems that are better adapted to their needs.

Last year, the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay told the government about the heartbreaking situation in the community of Attawapiskat. It is clear that first nations are not a priority for the government. Why are the Conservatives not taking action?