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

June 6th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the House about Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, a piece of legislation that deserves the full support of this House.

The proposed legislation is a crucial component of an integrated plan to resolve an issue that has persisted for far too many years and that threatens the health of tens of thousands of Canadians. Until regulations and standards are in place, the safety and quality of the water in first nations communities will remain at risk, posing a significant health risk.

I call on the opposition to stop stalling and to vote in support of this important legislation.

The long-term plan to improve the quality of drinking water in first nations communities is based on three pillars: capacity-building and operator training; investments in water and waste water infrastructure; and enforceable standards and protocols, which would be this legislation. Each of these pillars is designed to contribute in a specific way to the larger goal, which is access to safe drinking water for all first nations communities.

Improving operator training and community capacity is a case in point. One of the key problems identified in several studies on drinking water in first nations communities was the lack of capacity to operate and maintain water and waste water treatment facilities. In many case, there are simply not enough trained operators available to keep facilities running properly. Without trained and certified operators, any water system, regardless of where it is located, is unlikely to produce safe drinking water over the long term. The challenge is even greater when the system is in a remote part of the country, as so many first nations communities are. It is notoriously difficult to attract qualified workers and to retain them in these remote communities. This is true for a wide range of occupations. The remoteness of a community also contributes to delays in obtaining supplies, replacement parts and qualified repair technicians, which in turn can cause the system components to wear out more quickly.

The best way to address these challenges is to train and employ community residents, because they have a personal stake in ensuring the availability of safe, clean and reliable drinking water in their own communities. This is precisely what the circuit rider training program does.

Under this highly successful program, trainers travel to first nations communities and provide system operators with on-site, hands-on training on how to operate, maintain and monitor water and waste water systems. To increase the number of trained and certified operators, our government invests approximately $10 million each year in this program. Thanks to the circuit rider training program, there are now more trained and certified system operators than ever before.

In 2011, the national assessment determined that operators with the appropriate level of certification managed only 51% of first nations' water systems and 42% of first nations' waste water systems. One year later, annual performance inspections of the same systems concluded that these numbers had increased to 60% and 54% respectively.

Obviously, systems operated by properly trained and certified staff are more likely to consistently produce safe drinking water.

Less obvious, perhaps, are two other important benefits. First, properly trained operators are better able to ensure that facilities function effectively throughout their expected service life, maximizing the value of the infrastructure investments. Another benefit is that trained and certified operators will be better able to ensure that their systems can meet future regulatory standards.

Even the best qualified operators would struggle to consistently produce safe drinking water if they had to work with outdated or unserviceable equipment. That is why investments in water system infrastructure represent the second pillar in the Government of Canada's strategy to improve the quality of drinking water in first nations communities. Between 2006 and 2014, our government will have invested approximately $3 billion in water and waste water infrastructure in first nations communities. Economic action plan 2012 included more than $330 million over two years to build and renovate water and waste water infrastructure.

In this 2012-13 fiscal year alone, this investment supported some 286 major water and waste water infrastructure projects in first nation communities across the country. The government would continue to provide funding so that first nations could improve the quality of their water system infrastructure.

To get the full value of infrastructure investments, however, water systems must also be supported by enforceable regulations. That is what we are talking about today. These regulations would specify treatment standards, testing protocols, allowable levels of contaminants and all of the other factors that help define safe drinking water.

Regulations would foster accountability and provide community residents with the assurance they need to trust the water that comes out of their tap. Delivering safe drinking water on a consistent basis would require a chain of interventions: sources must be protected, for instance; and water must be filtered, treated and tested. Although these processes may vary, based upon the quality of the source water and the size of the distribution network, they must all be solid. Also, like all chains, the one that safeguards drinking water is only as strong as its weakest link.

Regulations would represent a key component of the overall process. They would specify science-based standards for quality testing, treatment protocols and other factors. Regulations would also assign responsibility for specific tasks. The organizations, such as municipal utilities, that supply water to the public must abide by these regulations.

Without regulations, there could be no assurance of the safety of drinking water in first nation communities. Regulations would provide the overarching framework of a drinking water system and guide the efforts of everyone involved in the system.

Bill S-8 would include a mechanism to establish regulatory regimes concerning the drinking water systems in first nation communities. This it the third pillar of the plan. The regimes would include rigorous standards and protocols and promote the accountability necessary to ensure that first nation communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.

To develop regulations, the legislation calls for a collaborative, region-by-region approach. In each region, first nations, the Government of Canada and other stakeholder groups would, together, design a regulatory regime tailored to local circumstances. The regulations used in nearby communities, such as provincial regimes, would serve as valuable guidelines.

I believe there is a tremendous value in this approach, because existing regulations are typically informed by the real-world challenges of producing water in a particular part of the country—challenges such as geography, weather and the quality and availability of water sources.

All three pillars must be in place to ensure that residents of first nation communities can access safe drinking water on a consistent and reliable basis. Operators must be properly trained; facilities must be functional; and standards, guidelines and protocols must be backed by regulations that must be in place.

Considerable progress has been made on all of these during the past seven years. The legislation now before us would support further progress.

Bill S-8 would be an essential part of a sensible, practical and balanced plan to improve the quality of drinking water and protect the long-term health of tens of thousands of Canadians.

Currently, laws are in place to protect the safety of drinking water accessed by every other Canadian, except for those living on reserve.

I call upon the opposition to stand up for first nations across this country and support Bill S-8.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is rather incredible for my colleague from Mississauga South to say that opposition members, including NDP members, must stand up in the house for the well-being of the first nations.

She knows, and she mentioned it in her speech, that the Conservative government has only invested $330 million over two years to fix the water supply problem. A study commissioned by the government found that a $5-billion investment over 10 years is needed, including $1.2 billion immediately. Throwing $330 million at the problem is not enough to provide first nations with a safe drinking water supply.

My question is for my Conservative colleague. When will the Conservative government stop treating first nations like second-class citizens?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the member opposite may not have heard all of my comments.

The $330 million committed was simply over two years, and that was in budget 2012.

Between 2006 and 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested approximately three billion—that is billion with a B—dollars to support delivery of drinking water and waste water systems in first nations.

While there is no mention of funding in this legislation, that is simply because this is enabling legislation. It is about the regulations ensuring that those Canadians who live on first nations have access to the same standards that the rest of us Canadians know we can rely on for safe drinking water every day.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's comments when she said $3 billion. She emphasized the letter B as opposed to M, meaning $3 billion.

She said that the money has been spent in a very short timeframe of a few years. I am sure Canadians, in particular our first nations, would want to know exactly where that $3 billion has been spent. Is there a list of specific projects? Has it gone in the form of bureaucracy? How has that $3 billion actually been disbursed over the last few years?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question because it gives me an opportunity to say that the priority of this government is for that $3 billion to go into training and infrastructure. I mentioned the circuit rider training program in my remarks. This is so that operators on first nations can be trained to do what is necessary because, as we have found, if operators are trained elsewhere or come from off site, when they come to the reserve and try to fit in, it often does not work as well as if someone from the first nation community actually learns about the process and is able to do it himself or herself. Those are the kinds of investments we are making.

I also talked about the 286 projects that are planned for 2013. These are new plans. I wish that the member had been at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development when the Canadian Bar Association talked about the fact that funding was needed for this. In my question to the witness from the CBA I was able to outline, because I happened to have the numbers right in front of me, all of the funding that has gone into this topic for the last seven years. I am so proud of what this government has done to support clean water on first nations reserves.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today. For the second time in two days we will be addressing first nations issues. I would like to advise the Speaker that I will be sharing my time.

Today I am speaking with the help of the MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who has done a tremendous amount of work on the first nations file. It almost seems to me that she does more work for the first nations than the entire Conservative caucus put together.

The regulations the government wants to impose may incorporate by reference provincial regulations governing drinking and waste water in first nations communities. However, the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations expressed concern about using provincial regulations, since that would result in a patchwork of regulations, leading to some first nations having more stringent standards than others.

These regulations would overrule any laws or by-laws made by first nations and limit the liability of the government for certain acts or omissions that occur in the performance of its duties under regulations.

New Democrats want to see safe, clean water and water systems that work for first nations communities, but imposing this legislation is not the solution. The federal government cannot simply unload its liability to first nations without providing the funding to bring the systems up to new standards.

First nations oppose the act because of the new liability provisions for first nations governments and the language around the non-derogation clause that is formulated to possibly be a first step to erode the constitutionally protected rights.

The delivery of safe drinking water to on-reserve first nations communities is critical to the health and safety of first nations Canadians, but for more than a decade, many first nations have lacked adequate access to safe drinking water. Bill S-8 is the second legislative initiative to address safe drinking water on reserve. Its predecessor, Bill S-11, did not proceed to third reading as a result of widespread concerns and subsequently died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved on March 26, 2011.

Bill S-8 retains several of the features of former Bill S-11, particularly in areas to be covered by eventual federal regulations. Non-derogation language is still included in the proposed legislation, expressly allowing for the abrogation or derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights in some circumstances.

It also provides for the incorporation, by reference, of provincial regulations governing drinking water and waste water.

The text of the bill would not, on its face, adequately address the needs of first nations to build capacity to develop and administer appropriate laws for the regulation of water and waste water systems on first nations lands.

New Democrats agree that the poor standards of water systems in first nations communities are hampering people's health and well-being. They are also causing economic hardship.

However, this legislation would make first nations liable for water systems that have already proven inadequate, without any funding to help them improve their water systems or give them the ability to build new ones more appropriate to their needs.

In addition, although there is a slight wording change, there is a clause in this legislation that would give the government the ability to derogate from aboriginal rights.

A provincial regime of regulations would not do enough to protect first nations communities. The patchwork system of provincial laws was rejected by the government's own expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations. We need a national regulatory system.

Regulations alone will not help first nations people to develop and maintain safe on-reserve water systems. They need crucial investments in human resources and physical infrastructure, including drinking water and sewage systems and adequate housing.

This is not a difficult problem to solve. It just requires political will and adequate investment.

The Assembly of First Nations submitted the following to the Senate committee:

Bill S-8, as part of ongoing process started with Bill S-11 prior to the CFNG, continues a pattern of unilaterally imposed legislation and does not meet the standards of joint development and clear recognition of First Nation jurisdiction. The engagement of some First Nations and the modest changes made to the Bill do not respond to the commitment to mutual respect and partnership envisioned by the CFNG.

The AFN also passed resolution no. 58/210 at its special chiefs assembly in December 2010 calling on the government to: ensure appropriate funds were available for any regulations implemented; support first nations in developing their own water management system; and work collaboratively with the AFN in developing an immediate plan on the lack of clean drinking water.

This resolution also puts the government on notice that the AFN expects any new water legislation to comply with first nations constitutionally protected and inherent treaty and aboriginal rights, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the report of the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations.

Chiefs of Ontario, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Treaty 7 nations in Alberta have signalled continued concerns with the proposed legislation, citing, among other things, the need to address infrastructure and capacity issues before introducing federal regulations.

In 2007, Dr. Harry Swain, chair of the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, told the Senate committee on aboriginal peoples that:

This is not...one of those problems in Aboriginal Canada that will persist for ever and ever and ever. This is one that can be solved and it can be solved with the application of a good chunk of money for a limited period of time,

The expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations argued that “Regulation alone will not be effective in ensuring safe drinking water unless the other requirements...are met...both human resources and physical assets”.

In 2011, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada released its “National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems--Ontario Regional Roll-Up Report”. The results show that 1,880 first nations homes are reported to have no water service and 1,777 homes are reported to have no waste water service.

In 2011, the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada commissioned an independent assessment on first nations water and waste water systems. The report clearly states that a significant financial commitment to infrastructure development will be necessary. It will cost $4.7 billion over 10 years to ensure that the needs of first nations communities in water and waste water systems are met. Instead, the Conservatives committed only $330 million over two years in 2010 and nothing in 2011.

I would just remind members of the House that most of us take for granted the fact that we own homes. When we are not in our riding we either live in a hotel or have an apartment. Every day, if we need a drink of water, we just turn on the tap. We take it for granted. Some first nations communities just cannot do that. We had a fine example of that lately in Montreal when there was a boil water advisory. People were shocked that they had to boil their water. All we have to do is think about the first nations that have to do that day in, day out every day of the year and have done so for years.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, what an interesting metaphor, to turn on the tap.

We heard from the member for Burnaby—New Westminster what he and his party's policy solutions were, and that was, if in doubt, spend. Now that member has brought a new dimension to the debate.

In his speech he said that we should have a national regulatory framework, the same across the board. Somebody who has lived in isolated remote first nations communities in northern Ontario, where the member is from, knows that the landscape is much different there than British Columbia or the Arctic.

How can we establish those national frameworks when the instruments for measurement and for water treatment will be markedly different from one jurisdiction to another? Could he answer that question, or is he like the leader of the Liberal Party, just in over his head on this one?

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess I was right when I said that the member from British Columbia and her staff had done more for first nations than the entire Conservative caucus put together, and the member just proved the point.

When I was talking about turning on the tap, I was referring to him, his home, his hotel or apartment. When he wants safe drinking water, all he has to do is turn on the tap. Unfortunately, because of the Conservative government, first nations cannot turn on a tap, and that goes on for days and decades. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has done nothing to solve the problem.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, shortly after the last federal election the leader of the Liberal Party introduced a motion through an opposition day dealing with the issue of clean drinking water.

I think most Canadians would be quite surprised to hear that there is a significant percentage of the population that does not have some of the basic necessities, such as going to the kitchen, turning on the water and being able to drink the water from the tap. Given the resources that Canada has as a nation, we could do a whole lot more.

Yes, we have legislation before us, but the real issue that needs to be addressed is working with our first nations.

Is it not time that we start looking at enabling our first nations and working with them to resolve these issues? Many of the drinking and bathing water issues that we talk about today could be met in two ways: first, provide the financial means to have those resources; and second, enable the first nation leadership to play a role in assisting and resolving a good portion of the problem.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find that question coming from a Liberal member ironic.

The Liberals were in power for 13 years before the current government and they did nothing at all. In fact, in the last century, the Liberal Party had been in power longer than any other party and the needs of first nations did not improved, thanks to that party.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak to a very important bill and a very important issue for the people I represent in northern Manitoba. I am honoured to represent the people of Churchill. That includes 33 first nations, first nations that are diverse, young with tremendous energy and tremendous opportunity. However, immense challenges exist on these first nations. Nowhere is that challenge more evident than the lack of access to safe drinking water, water services and sewage services on first nations.

When the reference to third world conditions is made, it is made because of the lack of access to safe drinking water that exists on many first nations in northern Manitoba. I think of the Island Lake community, four first nations that are isolated on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. I think of St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, Wasagamack and Red Sucker Lake. All of these communities are growing, like many first nations, at a high rate. There are a lot of young people and young families. Overcrowding and lack of housing are very serious issues.

However, what is evident in these communities is the impact of the lack of safe drinking water in terms of health outcomes, in terms of broader indicators of quality of life, in terms of the mortality rate that unfortunately among first nations remains lower than the Canadian average. That mortality rate is connected to a number of factors, but the fundamental lack of access to safe drinking water is key.

It is unacceptable that in the year 2013, in a country as wealthy as Canada, that first nations, simply because they are first nations, lack access to a basic right, the right of clean water and access to safe drinking water. They lack access to the kind of infrastructure that would ensure a healthier lifestyle in line with that which all Canadians enjoy.

While members from the governing party have spoken to the disastrous indicators, what they fail to speak to is their own failure to uphold their fiduciary obligation to first nations, their own failure to live up to the treaties, to respect aboriginal and treaty rights in ensuring that first nations, no matter where they are, have access to safe drinking water.

Instead of recognizing that failure and investing in the kind of infrastructure that is necessary, investing in the kind of training that is necessary for first nations to be able to provide access to safe drinking water, the government has chosen to uphold its pattern of imposing legislation on first nations. Not only has it imposed legislation in this case, Bill S-8, but it has done so without consultation, without recognizing the tremendous concerns that first nations have brought forward with respect to previous iterations of the bill. Fundamentally it is disrespecting its commitments under the treaties, under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which it signed. Even more reason for concern is the fact it is putting first nations in even greater danger than they are already in.

We know that Bill S-8 provides no funding to improve water systems on reserve. This is shameful because, given the rhetoric that we hear from the government about commitments to first nations, the reality is that when it comes to making a difference for safe drinking water, the need for investment in infrastructure and investment in capacity building is extremely serious.

I was there in February this year, but I remember being in Little Grand Rapids a couple of years back where the water treatment plant operator talked to us about how the chemicals he needed to be able to make sure that the water was safe for his community to drink were going to run out halfway through the year. I have spoken to water treatment plant operators who have talked about the lack of access to training programs so that they can improve their skills, so they can have the knowledge and skill set to be able to provide safe drinking water for their community members.

I have heard from water treatment plant operators, sewage treatment plant operators and leaders in communities who have expressed real concern about their inability, with the little they are given from this federal government, to provide what is a basic standard of living to their people. That onus falls entirely on the backs of the federal government.

Unfortunately, this is a result of years of neglect by the previous Liberal government, the imposition of the 2% cap that was halted, and has frozen in many cases, the kind of funding that is necessary for first nations to operate, and has been very much continued by the Conservative government.

We have seen that first nations that are continuing to grow, where their needs are continuing to grow, are turning to a federal government that is not only not prepared to make the investments in infrastructure, but is actually imposing its colonial agenda to boot.

We are very concerned in the NDP that on Bill S-8, like previous bills, Bill S-2, and so many others that impact first nations, Bill C-27, the government has insisted on shutting down debate on these very important bills, preventing members of Parliament from speaking out on behalf of their constituents who would be negatively impacted as a result of this legislation. We believe that by doing so, it is also silencing the voice of the first nations in this House.

This practice has unfortunately also been applied to committees where the facts have not been heard because of the government's attempt to muzzle those who oppose its agenda.

We in the NDP also stand in solidarity with first nations that have decried the government's continued pattern in which bills affecting first nations also include a clause, and we see it in Bill S-8, that gives the government the ability to derogate from aboriginal rights. The clause says, “Except to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of drinking water on first nations land”.

It is unconscionable that a federal government that is charged with a fiduciary obligation to first nations, that is there to honour the treaty relationships it is party to, would go so far as to derogate from aboriginal rights, to be able to break that very commitment it has to first nations. That is a failure on the part of the government. First nations have risen up against this failure, through the Idle No More movement, and through activism and leadership that first nations have consistently shown, saying that they are opposed to the government's agenda, and Bill S-8 is one of those reasons if we look at it clearly.

We are also very concerned about the pattern of unilaterally imposing legislation. We recognize that the AFN, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, a series of representative organizations of first nations have been very clear in their opposition to Bill S-8.

The reality is that the government is trying to change the channel on its own failed rhetoric around accountability and transparency, words that it cannot take to heart, given the recent scandals that have emerged. The government is trying to change the channel and put the blame on first nations.

When it comes to something as serious as access to safe drinking water, there is no room for these kinds of political games. The government should stand up, and instead of changing the channel, instead of imposing legislation, instead of breaking its commitment under the treaties and disrespecting aboriginal rights, it should work with first nations in partnership to make the investments that are necessary and obvious to ensure that safe access to drinking water exists in first nations communities the way it exists in communities across the country.

For the people of Island Lake, for first nations across this country, for all Canadians, we deserve better from the government.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to thank my colleague from Churchill for her wonderful speech and, above all, for her passion for her constituents. I know that she takes their rights and interests to heart. She demonstrates that day after day in the House.

The member spoke about the government's obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples, and I would like hear her say more about that.

Every time we raise the issue of fundamental aboriginal rights, as set out in the Constitution, it seems that the government has forgotten that aspect of its obligations. Each time, numerous aboriginal organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, write to the government to complain about the lack of consultation and, in particular, the lack of accommodation. That obligation goes hand in hand with the obligation to consult.

I would like to hear more from the member on that because I know that the Assembly of First Nations, for one, has complained about it.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.

I would like to say that it is truly a privilege to be able to work with him. He is a leader among Canada's aboriginal people. I am proud that, together, we can promote the NDP's vision, which is very supportive of aboriginal peoples. We will stand firm and fearless in opposition to this government. We will oppose its agenda, which is colonial in nature and paternalistic towards first nations.

In answer to his question, I would like to quote the Assembly of First Nations. This text, which is only available in English, is about this bill and was submitted to the Senate committee.

Bill S-8, as part of an ongoing process started with Bill S-11 prior to the CFNG, continues a pattern of unilaterally imposed legislation and does not meet the standards of joint development and clear recognition of First Nation jurisdiction. The engagement of some First Nations and the modest changes made to the Bill do not respond to the commitment to mutual respect and partnership envisioned by the CFNG.

Not only is it against the duty to consult and not only is it against the Prime Minister's commitment to a new relationship during the Crown–First Nations Gathering; this bill also continues, unfortunately, a historical pattern of imposing a colonial view. As a piece of legislation on something as serious as safe drinking water, it is going to cause more damage, create the potential for tremendous liability and not actually live to up to any of the things that the government ought to be doing; in fact, it would further impoverish and marginalize first nations that need the federal government to act.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Churchill, who gives her all every day defending aboriginal peoples, among others. She is the NDP caucus leader at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. We just came from our review of Bill S-2, and she was able to share her vast knowledge on the subject.

Earlier, the hon. member talked about the importance of information. This concept was also raised this morning by the hon. member for Mississauga South. In her speech, she said that since we do not have enough trained people to do the work in the communities, such as installing sewers and water systems, which requires rather technical skills, we would train people there, either aboriginals or other people.

One of the challenges we are dealing with in the committee studying Bill S-2 has to do with money. People on site are being given responsibilities, but not the means to carry out those responsibilities.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for raising such an important point.

I will begin by saying that I invite all the Conservative members, who are listening to me closely I am sure, to visit our region in northern Manitoba to see for themselves what it means not to have access to drinking water and related essential services. That is the reality for these first nation communities.

They did not ask for this. This government and the previous Liberal governments did not invest enough money in infrastructure and training. The Harper government continues to marginalize the first nations. This is a national disgrace and it must change.

It will change in future thanks to NDP leadership.